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First Edition, in Two Vais., 1889 

Second Edition {rewritten)^ in One Vb/,, January y 1904 

















Fanny Kemble 



Richard Burbage 

To face page 20 


Ann Oldfiri^d 

II II 63 


David Garrick 

II II 74 


Edmund Kean 



Peg Woffington 

n II "4 


Sarah Siddons 



Samuel Foote 



Robert William Elliston 

II II 254 


Interior of Sadler's Welus 


re . 



Snacribino tbid Volume 

(by permission) to 





A FULL and complete history of the London stage 
would fill some scores of volumes — Geneste re- 
quired ten for the history of the patent theatres and 
the Haymarket — he touches upon little else — from 1660 
to 1830. With the space at my disposal I could do no 
more than generalise ; but I have endeavoured to give 
a continuous and consecutive history of the rise, pro- 
gress, changes, vicissitudes of the London Rtag rp from 
its fniindation in 137^ to the prp<;pr|f day— from the 
Blackfriars of Shakespeare and the Drury Lane of 
Garrick to *'the Vic." and the Bower Saloon. My 
difficulty has been to select out of the plethora of 
materials such as would most vividly tell my story, as 
well as prove most acceptable to my readers. To con- 
dense within one volume the principal dramatic events, 
with some account of the authors who created them 
and the actors who embodied them, through a period 
of about three hundred and thirty years, distributed 
among the many scores of theatres that have risen, 
fallen, and still exist, from the time when James Bur- 
bage built The Theatre to the opening of the New 
Gaiety, has been a task to which much thought and 
labour have had to be given. In treating of the actors 
I have been compelled, except in rare cases, to confine 
myself entirely to their stage careers. That important 


omissions will be detected, that actors, concerning whom 
fuller details might be expected, are only glanced at, 
goes without saying ; for all such shortcomings my plea 
must be lack of space. 

Having been a constant playgoer from early boyhood, 
and associated with the stage both before and behind 
the curtain during the greater part of my life, I have 
been enabled to give personal impressions and remi- 
niscences of some of the famous actors of the past — ^in 
their later days — as well as of those of the present. 

In my very brief remarks upon the drama of the day 
I could scarcely refer to the enormous influence which 
Ibsen has exercised upon the work of Messrs. Pinero, 
H. A. Jones, Esmond, Haddon Chambers, and others of 
our leading dramatists, an influence which, whether for 
good or ill, is paramount over the dramatic literature 
of Europe. 

The edition of 1889 has been thoroughly revised, 
the original text pruned, a great deal of new matter 
introduced, and the chronicles of the stage brought up 
to the autumn of 1903. 



OF • 



The Theatre . 
The Curtain . 
The Hope 
The Rose 
The Swan 
The Blackfriars 
The Globe 
The Newington 
The Fortune . 
The Red Bull . 
The Cockpit ) 
The Phcenix ) 
The Whitcfriars 
Salisbury Court 

1576 1597 

1577 1623 (?) 

I6I3 1656 

1592 ? 

1598 1632 ? 

1596 1647 (?) 

1597 1644 

? ? 

■ 4 

. 4 

. 8 

. 8 




. II 

1599 1656 

1599 (?) i66i(?) 


1617-18 1661 (?) , 


? ? 


1629 1666 



Vere Street, Clare Market 
Lincoln's Inn Fields (The Duke's) 
The Nursery . 
Dorset Garden (Duke's) 


1663 (?) . 

. . 46 


1743 (?) . 

. 107 



. 40 


1706 (?) . 

. . 38 

' When a note of interrogation follows the date, it is doubtful. When the note 
stands alone, the date is unknowny^ A blank left in the second column of figures, 
denotes that the theatre is still standing. When two or more names are bracketed, 
it indicates that the theatre has been known by each of those titles. 



(Built during thb Eightbbnth and Ninbtbbnth Cbnturibs) 



The Queen's \ 



The King's \ ... 1705 

1892 . 

. 162 

Her Majesty's J 

The Sans Souci . . . . 1793 

1834 . 

. 346 

The Lyceum . 'v 

Th6 English Opera House > . .1794 

1902 . 

. 274 

The Theatre Royal Lyceum J 

Astley's Middlesex Amphitheatre 

Olympic Pavilion 
Little Drury Lane 

. 1806 

1899 . 

. 247 


"Concerts of Ancient Music" 

Regency Theatre of Varieties 

West London 


. . 1809 

1882 . 

. 3" 


Queen's (second time) 

Prince of Wales's 

The Argyll Rooms Theatre . 1819 

1823 . 

. 346 

The Orange Street, Chelsea . . . 1831 

1832 . 

. 346 

The Albion 1 ^g 
The New Queen's / ' 


. 347 

The Westminster Theatre .1832 

1836 . 

• 347 

The Royal Kent, Kensington High Street . 1834 

1840 . 

. 347 

The Colisseum, Albany Street . .1841 

1842 . 

. 348 

The Bijou (Her Majesty's) . . ? 

1867 . 

. 207 

Holbom 'k 

Mirror [ . . . 1866 

1879 . 

. 326 

Duke's J 

Queen's ^ 

National > . . . . . 1867 

1878 . 

. 328 

Queen's J 

Globe ... 1868 

1902 . 

• 330 

Gaiety . . 1868 

1903 • 

. 338 

Charing Cross ^ 

FoUy \ . ; . 1869 

1895 . 

• 335 

Toole's J 

Opera Comique . . . 1870 

1899 . 

• 334 

Alhambra (as a dramatic theatre) . . 1871 

1884 . 

. • 343 

Amphitheatre, Holbom 


. 1874 

1888 . 

• 327 

Theatre Royal, Holbom . 



The Aquarium Theatre ) 
The Imperial ) ' 

Empire (as a dramatic theatre) 
The Royal English Opera House (now the Palace 
Theatre) . ... 





1885 . 



1887 . 


1890 — 



Drury Lane 

. . 1663 - 

• 45 


The Haymaricet 

. 1720 — 

. 211 

Covent Garden 

. 1732 — 

• "3 

TBe Sans Pareil ( 
Addphi ( 

. 1806 — 

. 413 

The New Royal Sussex 


The Royal Pavilion Theatre, West | 

Theatre Royal, Marylebone 
Royal Alfired 

. . 1831 — 

. 438 

The Marylebone 

The West London Theatre 

Rayner's New Subscription Theatre in the Strand ^ 

New Strand 

\ 1832 - 

. 439 

Theatre Royal, Strand 


The Sl James's ^ 

The Prince's \ . 

. . 1835 - 

. 456 

The St. James's J 

Miss Kelly's Theatre \ 

New English Opera House > 

. 1840 — 

. 451 

New Royalty ) 

The Princess's 

. . 1840 

. 474 

The Vaudeville 

. 1870 — 

. 498 

New Chelsea * 


... 1870 — 

. . 501 

Royal Court . 

The Criterion 

. 1874 — 

. 509 

The Savoy 

. 1881 - 

• 512 

The Comedy 

. 1881 — 

. 514 

The Avenue 

. 1882 — 

. 516 

The Novelty 

The Folies Dramatique 

. 1882 — 

. 518 

The Jodrell 

The Great Queen Street Theatre 

The Prince's \ 
The Prince of Walk's J 

. . 1884 - 

. 519 

Terry's Theatre 

. 1887 — 

. 521 

The Shaftesbury . 

. 1888 - 

. 522 




The Lyric ... 1888 


The Garrick 

. 1889 



The Duke of York's ' 

. 1892 



Daly's Theatre . 

. 1893 



His Majesty's . 







The Imperial 




The Apollo 

1 901 



The New Theatre 

. 1903 

. — 


The New Gaiety . 1903 





Lyric Opera House . . . 1888 



The Kilbum 




. 1897 



The Coronet, Notting Hill 

. 1898 


. 534 

The Richmond 1 . 

. 1893 



The King's Theatre, Hammersmith 

. 1897 



The Ealing 





(Past and Prbsknt) 

"Sadler's Wells . 

The Grecian 

The Clarence 

The New Lyceum 

The Cabinet 

The King's Cross 

The Albert Saloon 

The Britannia 

Highbury Bam . 

The Variety, Hoxton 

The Park, Camden Town \ 

The Alexandra / 

The Philharmonic \ 

The Grand 3 

TheParkhurst . 

The New Alexandra, Stoke Newington 

The Queen's, Crouch End 

The Dalston 

The Camden 

The New Marlborough, HoUoway 

. 176s 

— . 

• 351 

. 1832 

I88I . 

• . 376 

. 1832 

1870 . 

. . 381 


? . 

• • 378 

\ . 1841 


. . 378 

. 1865 

I87I . 

. . 381 

. I87I 


. . 381 

. I87I 

I88I . 

. . 381 

. 1870 

— . 

. 382 

. 1890 


• • 383 

\ 1897 


. • 383 

. 1897 


. 283 

. 1898 


• • 383 



• . 383 

. 1903 

"~~ V • 

. • 383 

The old Richmond Theatre, built in 1765, was not pulled down until 1884. 



(Past and Pusbnt) 

The Royal Grove 
Astley's Amphitheatre 
Davis's Amphitheatre 
Batt/s Amphitheatre 
Theatre Royal, Westminster 
Sanger's Amphitheatre 
The Royal Circus 1 
'The Surrey / 

The Cohourg 1 
The Victoria / * 
The Rotunda 
The Bower Saloon 
The Royal Borough 
The Greenwich . 
The Carlton, Greenwich 
The Old Deptford 
The Elephant and Castle . 
The Metropole, Camberwell 
The New Brixton 
The Kennington 
The Crown, Peckham 
The Terris, Rotherhithe . 
The Duchess (as a theatre), Balham 
The Broadway, Deptford 


. 1780 

1895 . 

. . 384 


. 1782 

— . 

. . 389 

. I8I8 

tB7i . 

. . 396 

. • . 1833 

1838 . 

. 400 

. 1838 

1879 • 

. 399 

. , ? 

? . 

. 400 

. 1864 

— . 

. 400 



. 400 

. ? 

? . 

. 400 

. 1872 

— . 

. 400 

. 1894 


• • 401 

. 1896 


. 401 

. 1898 


. . 401 

. 1898 


. 401 

. . 1899 


. 401 

Balham . 1899 


. 401 

. 1897 

— . 

. 401 

(Past and Prbsbnt) 

Goodman's Fields (two theatres) . 

The Royalty 'v 

The East London > 

The Brunswick J 

The Shakespeare, Curtain Road . 

The City Theatre, Grub Street \ 

The City Pantheon i 

The Pavilion 

The Garrick, Leman Street 

The City of London 

The New East London, Stepney . 

The Royal Standard 1 

The New Standard / 

The Effingham Saloon 1 

The New East London / 


I75I . 

. 66 


1828 . 

. 402 



. — 


1836 . 

. 404 



1868 . 


. . 406 
. 406 
. 407 


. . 408 

1879 . 

. 409 



The Oriental \ /j>^^ '\ ^^ 

The Albion, Poplar/ . . 1867 ? . . . 409 

The Theatre Royal, Stratford . . * ^ . . . 409 

The Borough, Stratford . 1896 — . . 409 

This, as far as I have been able to discover, is a complete list of the 
metropolitan theatres from 1576 to 1903, though doubtless others may have 
existed which have sunk into irretrievable oblivion. 

I have omitted all mention of liouses which have been used only for 
amateur performances. The most famous of these were, one in Catherine 
Street, afterwards the Echo office, and others situated in Gough Street and 
Rawstome Street, upon the boards of which many an afterwards great 
actor first tried his wings. A more recent one, built about thirty or forty 
years ago, is the Bijou at Bayswater. Important performances are some- 
times given. It was there Nonna Vantui^ prohibited, no one knows why, 
by the Lord Chamberlain, was produced during 1903. 

* The managers of the theatres marked with a star have neglected to furnish me 
with dates. 





The Theatre— The Curtain— The Paris Garden— The Hope— The Rose— 
The Globe— The Swan— The Newington— The Blackfriars— The Fortune 
—The Red Bull— The Cockpit— The Whitefriars— The Salisbury Court 
— Audiences — Actors — Plays — Music — The Question of Scenery — A 
Play-day at the Blackfriars. 

IN mediaeval times the Miracle plays, Mysteries, and 
Moralities, the earliest forms of the Western drama, 
were represented in churches or on wooden movable plat- 
forms raised in the market places ; but from Henry the 
Seventh's reign, when a passion for dramatic amusements 
began to develop among all classes, to the earlier years 
of ** the Virgin Queen," the trained companies of actors, 
which many noblemen attached to their households, 
when not required by their lords, would roam from town 
to town giving public performances, usually in inn yards ; 
and it was the angient inn yard, with its open area, its 
two or three tiers of galleries with rooms at the back, 
that was taken as a model for the first English theatre, 
a model that has never since been departed from. 

Upon the site of what is now Holywell Lane, Shore- 
ditch, during the Middle Ages, stood the Priory of St. 
John the Baptist ; at the Reformation it shared the 
common fate of religious houses, and after lying in ruins 


for some time, one Giles Allen purchased the ground and 
leased it out for building. One of these plots was taken 
by James Burbage, Burbadge, or Burbidge — the name 
is indifferently spelt — ^an actor in the Earl of Leicester's 
company, but a joiner by trade, in partnership with his 
father-in-law, John Braynes, and thereon they erected a 
circular wooden building, open to the sky, at a cost of 
;^6oo or £700, for theatrical and other amusements, 
which they named the Theatre,^ and which was opened 
to the public in the autumn of 1576. 

Not for long, however, did this novel venture enjoy 
a monopoly ; during the following year a rival house 
sprang up in its immediate neighbourhood, and was 
called the Curtain; the name still survives in Curtain 
Road. Writing at this time, Stow says : ** Many houses 
have been there builded [on the site of the Priory] for 
the lodgings of noblemen, of strangers born, and other- 
wise. And near unto are builded two publique houses 
for the acting and shew of Comedies, Tragedies, and 
Histories for recreation. Whereof the one is called the 
Courtein and the other the Theatre, both standing on 
the south side towards the field." 

The Elizabethan drama, as we understand the term, 
was not yet born ; Marlowe, the first of the great 
dramatists, did not produce his Tamburlaine until about 
eleven years afterwards, and the earliest known plays of 
John Lyly and George Peele do not date farther back 
than 1584. Ralph Roister Doister, Gammer Gurtons 
Needle^ and GordvAtUy the first dramatic works in the 
English language that have any claim to be styled 
comedy and tragedy, were written at a much earlier 

^ Mr. Ordish, a weighty authority, in his Early London Theatres^ opines 
that this was the first building erected in Europe for the performance of 
secular plays. In 1600, Paris had but two theatres, London nine or ten. 



date, but only for private performance.^ On the public 
stage were represented '* Moralities," "Jigs," "Inter- 
ludes,"' and such a barbarous medley of bombast and 
buffoonery as we have in the old plays of Damon and 
Ptthias, Appius and Virginia, and Cambyses — which 
Shakespeare has immortalised by his reference to 
" the King Cambyses vein," in Henry IV. From 
these and similar specimens of the pre-Marlowe drama 
that have descended to us, we can form a tolerably 
accurate idea of the dramatic portion of the entertain- 
ment given at the earliest theatres. At the Theatre 
there was a movable stage for dramatic performances,* 
but the entertainment consisted mostly of tumbling, 
vaulting, rope dancing, and fencing. A passage in 
Lambards Perambulations of Kent (1576) affords a 
curious hint as to the prices charged for admission. 
" Those who go to Paris Gardens, the Bell Savage,* or 
the Theatre to behold bear-baiting, interludes, or fence 
play, must not account of any pleasant spectacle unless 
first they pay one penny at the gate, another at the 

* The first-named piece was written by Nicholas Udall, Master of Eton 
College, previous to 1553, and was probably acted by his scholars ; the 
second was by John Still, also a clergyman, and played at Christ's College, 
Cambridge ; while Lord Sackville's GordubuCy or Perrex and Porrex, was 
performed before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall by the gentlemen of the 
Inner Temple, in 156 1. 

* In the " Moralities,'* the vices and virtues were personified. The 
recently revived Everyman is a fair specimen of that species of composi- 
tion. The "Jig" was made up of satirical verses, recited or sung by the 
clown to the accompaniment of pipe and tabor, to which he danced. 
"Interludes" were satirical dialogues on the follies and vices of the time ; 
they were first introduced by John Heywood in the reign of Henry VII. 

' Mr. Ordish conjectures that the word playhouse was derived from the 
Anglo-Saxon piegakus, plega signifying a game or sport, while stage-play 
was so called from the circumstance that dramatic performances always 
took place on scaffolds or stages. 

* The inn yards continued to be used for dramatic exhibitions for some 
years after this time, and the Bell Sauvage on Ludgate Hill was one of the 
most £sunous of these extemporised playhouses. 


entry to the scaffold, and a third for a quiet sitting." 
The last must, indeed, have been a desideratum in these 
early theatres, since the unruliness of the audience, who 
frequently indulged in riots and tumults, was continually 
getting the managers into hot water with the civic 
authorities, most of whom were leavened with Puritan- 
ism. In 1580 the Lord Mayor appealed against Braynes 
and Burbage to the Lords of the Council, who at that 
very time had under consideration certain disturbances 
which had occurred on a certain Sunday* in the April 
of that year, and in this memorial his lordship disdain- 
fully alludes to " the players of playes and tumblers " as 
being "a very superfluous sort of men," and opines that 
"the exercise of those playes is a great hindrance of the 
service of God." Here we have the germ of that 
fanaticism which grew year by year, until it was strong 
enough, under the gloomy reign of the saints, to sweep 
every pleasure out of existence. There was a constant 
struggle between the Court, as represented by the 
Privy Council, and the civic authorities about the 
players; the former repeatedly solicited the City to 
show indulgence to the players, as Her Majesty some- 
times took delight in such pastimes, and these per- 
formances were necessary to enable them to attain more 
dexterity and perfection, the better to content Her 

The Theatre enjoyed but a brief career. In 1597, 
Giles Allen, the ground landlord, perhaps under 
pressure of the Puritan citizens, intimated to Messrs. 
Braynes and Burbage that he required the land for other 

^ The playhouses were open in London on Sundays, even in Charles the 
First's time ; though it would appear that such amusements were never law- 
ful on the Sabbath, and were forbidden by enactments at different periods. 
In 1 595 there were performances on Christmas Day. 


purposes. Now, according to the stipulations of the 
lease, Burbage had the power to remove the building at 
the end of his term ; but Allen denied this right, and 
evidently thought he had the power of evading it. One 
morning, however, the actors and some assistants set 
about pulling down the house, and, in spite of the armed 
resistance of the ground landlord, amidst a great tumult, 
succeeded in carrying off the materials to Bankside, 
Southwark, and the timber thus saved helped to erect 
another theatre, which was afterwards called the Globe. 

The Curtain was evidently a superior house to the 
Theatre ; some of the most celebrated companies of the 
time appeared there, notably the Lord Chamberlain's, 
known in the next reign as the King s, of which Shake- 
speare was a member. Here it is probable that Romeo 
and Juliet and Every Man in His Humour were first 
presented. There is no known reference to the Curtain 
after 1623, though it may have existed until the final 
suppression of the theatres, between 1642 and 1647. 

In the meantime theatrical amusements had been 
migrating southward, and at the close of the sixteenth 
and opening of the seventeenth century the Bankside, 
Southwark, was the great centre of theatrical London. 
In the petition of John Taylor, "the Water Poet," 
to James I. (161 5) for the suppression of all theatres 
on the Middlesex side of the Thames, he states that 
40,000 watermen plied for hire between Windsor and 
Gravesend, that half of these had been called into 
existence by the Southwark theatres and other places 
of amusement, which visitors always approached by the 
Thames, and he draws a direful picture of the ruin 
that will fall upon his craft if theatres are allowed to 
be erected within four miles of the city. 

The most popular place of amusement, however, on 


Bankside, was Paris Garden, afterwards better known as 
the Bear Garden.^ About 1585, in order to vary the 
brutal amusements of bull-baiting and cock-fighting, a 
theatre was opened here ; it was little more than a 
wooden frame set on trestles and wheels, so that it could 
be pushed aside to make room for the sports. 

In 1 61 3, after the destruction of the Globe, Philip 
Henslowe, Edward Alleyn's father-in-law and the author 
of the famous Diary, which throws such a wonderful 
light upon the theatrical arrangements of his time, 
rebuilt and greatly enlarged this house, which was there- 
after known as the Hope. It is conjectured that the 
White Bear public-house — the name is, undoubtedly, a 
reminiscence of Paris Garden — occupies the site of it, 
Henslowe had built a theatre called the Rose within 
the precincts of the Bear Garden as early as 1592, in 
which it is probable that Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus 
and the first part of Henry VI., Marlowe's Jew of 
Malta, and some of Greene's and Peele's plays were 
first performed. The Rose was the summer house of 
the Fortune, as the Globe was of the Blackfriars. 

Now between Edward Alleyn,* master of the Bear 
Garden, and James Burbage there seems to have been a 
strong rivalry, and it was to oppose AUeyn that the 
manager of the Theatre transported the materials of the 
building to Bankside, and there erected the Globe, 
which was opened in 1597, just in the lusty spring of 
the Elizabethan drama. Marlowe, Greene, and Peele had 
done their work and passed away ; Shakespeare had 
written his earlier plays, and, ere the century closed, Ben 

* The Bear Garden survived even the Puritan rule, and continued to 
flourish until the early decades of the eighteenth century, when it was super- 
seded in popular favour by the notorious Hockley-in-the-Hole, in Smithfield. 

^ Edward AUeyn was one of the finest actors of his day, the proprietor 
of the Fortune Theatre, and the founder of Dulwich College. 


Jonson, Chapman, Thomas Hey wood, and several 
minor lights had beg^n to wield their pens. A German 
traveller^ who visited England in 1598 gives us the 
following curious description of the theatres of that 
period, and of Paris Garden : ** Within the city are 
some theatres where English actors represent almost 
every day tragedies and comedies to very numerous 
audiences ; these are combined with excellent music and 
variety of dances. There is still another place built 
in the form of a theatre, which serves for the baiting of 
bulls and bears that are fastened behind, and then 
worried by great English bull-dogs, but not without 
great risk to the dogs, from the horns of the one and 
the teeth of the other ; and it sometimes happens they 
are killed upon the spot ; fresh ones are immediately 
supplied in the place of those that are wounded or tired. 
To this entertainment, there often follows that of whip- 
ping a blinded bear, which is performed by five or 
six men, standing circularly with whips, which they 
exercise upon him without any mercy, as he cannot 
escape from them on account of his chain ; he defends 
himself with all his force and skill, throwing down all 
who come within his reach, and are not active enough to 
get out of it, and tearing the whips out of their hands 
and breaking them. At these spectacles, and every- 
where else, the English are constantly smoking tobacco, 
and in this manner they have pipes on purpose made of 
clay, into the further end of which they put the herb, so 
dry that it may be rubbed into powder, and putting fire 
to it, they draw the smoke into their mouths, which they 
puff out through their nostrils, like funnels, along with it 
plenty of phlegm and defluxion from the head. In 

^ Paul Hentznerus*s/((wr»<y into England in iSQ^y translated by Horace 


these theatres fruits, such as apples, pears, and nuts, 
according to the season, are carried about to be sold, as 
well as ale and wine." John De Witt, the learned canon 
of St. Mary's Church, Utrecht, visited London in 1596, 
and wrote his impressions of the various sights he saw. 
Among other places he mentions are " four large and 
splendid playhouses " ; the Theatre and the Curtain 
towards the north, and the Rose and the Swan in the 
south. He describes each as being oval in form, a 
beautiful structure, not of wood, but built or faced with 
flint and marble, and of considerable size, the boxes and 
galleries containing three thousand seats. There is a 
sketch of the Swan, showing the audience, the actors on 
the stage, the lord's room, the doors and the tiring-room 
at the back. There does not seem to be the slightest 
reason to doubt the authenticity of these documents, and 
their contents certainly give us a far more exalted idea 
of the resources and architectural pretensions of these 
early English theatres than has ever before been enter- 

The Globe was a hexagonal building, and had for its 
sign* Atlas supporting the world, and underneath was 
written, Tottis mundus agit histrionem, which motto, as 
As You Like It was first produced at this house, prob- 
ably suggested the famous speech commencing "All the 
world's a stage." 

Just after Shakespeare had retired, in 161 3, during 
the performance of a play on the subject of Henry VHI., 
entitled. All is Tnie^ the wadding of one of the cannons 
used for firing salutes, lodged in the thatch of the roof, 

* The papers relating to this visit were found by Dr. Gadertz in the 
Royal Library, Berlin, in 1888. 

3 Not only did every trade and profession in those days mount a sign at 
its door, but even the theatres adopted the same fashion. 

• Supposed to have been Shakespeare's Henry VHL 


and in two hours the house was a mass of smouldering 
ruins. But it was immediately rebuilt at a cost of 
;^i,400. In a contemporary letter we read: "I hear 
much speech about this new playhouse, which is said to 
be the fairest that ever was in England.'* 

The Globe, after the suppression of all places of 
amusement by the Puritans, was pulled down on the 
15th of April, 1644 ; thirty- two years afterwards Richard 
Baxter was preaching in the wooden meeting-house 
raised upon the site, which is now covered by Barclay 
and Perkins' brewery. 

The Swan, erected in Paris Garden by Mr. Langley 
about 1598, was used more for sports in the ring than 
stage plays. Of its history nothing is known beyond 
the circumstance that Middleton's A Chaste Maid in 
Cheapside was first acted there. The last mention of 
the Swan is by Shakerly Marmion, in 1632. 

A house that perhaps stood nearly upon the site of 
the present Elephant and Castle Theatre — though that 
is uncertain — called "the Newington," of which little is 
known except that this also was the property of Edward 
AUeyn and Philip Henslowe, completes the list of the 
Southwark playhouses. 

Shakespeare's close association with the Blackfriars 
and the Globe, as actor, author, and manager, renders 
everything connected with them of supreme interest. 
Less than twenty years ago, some documents were 
brought to light that afford new and very important 
information regarding the history of the former house, 
the site of which is now covered by the office of the 
Times and Playhouse Yard, facts that completely refute 
Mr. Payne Collier s dates. Within the precincts of the 
Blackfriars, at the time of the Reformation, stood a 
church dedicated to St. Ann, which, at the dissolution 


of the monasteries under Henry VI 1 1., was seized upon 
by Sir Thomas Cawardine and converted into a store- 
house for the properties used in the Court entertainments, 
as well as a place where the children employed in these 
spectacles were rehearsed. In the next reign two tennis 
courts were opened here, but were soon afterwards 
suppressed on account of the disorderly conduct of the 
frequenters. When Elizabeth came to the throne, the 
building seems again to have reverted to theatrical 
purposes. It was some time in 1596 that James 
Burbage obtained a lease of the premises from Sir 
Thomas's executor, Sir William More, and set about 
converting them into a theatre. The first tenants of the 
new playhouse were the Children of the Chapel, after- 
wards styled the Children of His Majesty's Revels.^ 

Papers relating to a Chancery suit discovered in the 
Record Office, and alluded to in the Athenaum for 
March 3rd, 1888, throw much new light upon the 
early history of the Blackfriars Theatre. The suit was 
brought against Richard Burbage, John Hemings, and 
others, in respect of the lease of this house, which the 
said Burbage, by deed dated 2nd September, 42 of 

^ These celebrated juvenile performers, as well as others called the 
Children of the Queen's Chapel, the Children of St. Paul's, were then 
attached to cathedrals and collegiate churches, and by an edict of Elizabeth 
(1585) were compulsorily trained for masques and other dramatic repre- 
sentations. Many of the plays of our greatest dramatists were originally 
represented by these youngsters, notably Ben Jonson's Cynthiiis Revels^ The 
Poetaster^ most of John Lyl/s, several of Chapman's, Dekker's, Marston's, 
Middleton's, etc. Their great popularity excited the jealousy of the adult 
actors ; references to them abound in the Elizabethan drama, and everyone 
will recall the passage in Hamlet: "There is, sir, an aiery of children, little 
eyasses who cry out on the top of the question, and arc most tyrannically 
clapped for 't : these are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages 
(so they call them), that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose quills and 
dare scarce come hither." 

These juvenile companies, however, were excellent training schools, and 
gave many fine actors to the stage. 


Elizabeth (1600), demised to Henry Evans, "who in- 
tended then presently to erect and sett upp a companye 
of boys ... or others, to playe playes and interludes in 
the saide playhouse in such sort before tyme had been 
there vsed." By reason of the plague in anno i, 
James I., Evans "grewe wearye" of the playhouse and 
desired to give up his interest in it. He surrendered 
the lease in August, anno 6, following. The com- 
plainant, in his replication, states that "during such 
time as the saide defendantes Heminges and Burbage 
and their companye contynewed playes and interludes 
in the said great hall in ffryers . . . they gott, and as 
yet dothe, more in one winter in the said greate Hall by 
a thousand powndes than they were vsed to gett in the 
Banckside." The use of the word "hall" is very 
suggestive as to the original form of the building. And 
very curious is another passage which goes on to state 
that Evans, in the 43 of Elizabeth, " was censured by 
the Right Honrable Courte of Starr Chamber for his 
vnorderlie carriage and behauior in takinge vp of gentle- 
mens childeren against their wills and to ymploy them 
for playes." We likewise learn that the building was 
leased to this Henry Evans for forty pounds a year. 
The documents are given in full in the AthencBum for 
April 7th and 21st, 1888, and besides the interesting 
side-lights they throw upon the history of the theatre, 
seem to fully establish the fact that it was in 1600 that 
Shakespeare and his colleagues, including Richard 
Burbage, Lowin, Condell, Armin, Heming, succeeded 
the Children of the Queen's Revels as actors at the 
Blackfriars. When Burbage's company first appeared 
at the Globe it was known as the Lord Chamberlain s, 
but in the year 1603,^ James allowed them to take the 

^ In the earlier days of the drama each company of actors was attached 
to some nobleman's household, and was known as his "servants." After 


title of the Kings Servants. They were enrolled in 
the Royal household, and each man was allowed four 
yards of '* bastard scarlet," and a quarter of a yard of 
velvet for a cape. In an ancient letter, dated 1591, a 
portion of a volume of correspondence that passed 
between the English and Scotch Courts during the 
negotiations for the marriage of James with Anne of 
Denmark, it is stated that the King had expressed a 
great desire for the Queen's Company — Burbage's 
troupe — to visit Edinburgh, it being at that time in 
Lancashire ; and we afterwards read that they had arrived 
as far as Carlisle. Although we are vouchsafed no 
further information upon the subject, there is little doubt 
that the royal request was complied with, and might 
account for King James's favour being afterwards so 
particularly extended to this company, and for Shake- 
speare's knowledge of Scotland.^ 

The theatre next in importance to the Blackfriars and 
Globe was the Fortune, so called from the image of the 
goddess which surmounted the principal entrance; this 
house was built by AUeyn in 1599, in Golden Lane, St. 
Luke's. Although as an aristocratic resort it could not 
compare with the Blackfriars, the greatest dramatists of 

the bailding of regular theatres, however, these distinctions became only 
nominal, and were simply the titles under N¥hich the companies were 
licensed, and under which they performed at different theatres. 

* Dr. Stefanson, of Copenhagen, in a paper read some few years ago 
before the Elizabethan Society, informed us that there is an entry in the 
accounts of the town of Elsinore which shows that a company of English 
actors performed there in 1 585, and among the names are Will Kempe and 
Thomas Pope, both associates of Shakespeare. Now the years between 
1585 and 1592 are the most obscure in the poet's career. Dr. Stefanson 
pointed out that Shakespeare's knowledge of Elsinore, its ancient customs 
and palace, which contains the portraits of the kings as indicated in the 
closet scene of Hamlet, is minutely correct Might not Shakespeare have 
been in that company? Or, on the other hand, he might have obtained 
these particulars from Will Kempe* 


the day, always excepting Shakespeare, wrote for its 
stage, and Alleyn was an actor who stood shoulder to 
shoulder with the great Burbage himself. The Fortune 
was destroyed by fire in 1621, but immediately rebuilt 
In 1656, as it had fallen into decay under the Puritan 
regime, it was pulled down ; and some idea may be 
formed of the area it occupied when it is stated that a 
street was cut through it, and twenty-three tenements, 
with gardens, raised upon the ground. Within the last 
twenty years a wall of the old theatre was enclosed 
within a box manufactory. 

The remainder of the theatres erected before the Great 
Rebellion may be very briefly touched upon ; conspicuous 
among these was the Red Bull, the site of which is now 
covered by Woodbridge Street, that faced one side of 
the Clerkenwell House of Detention. Of its date and 
origin nothing is known, though from the name we may 
conjecture that it was originally an inn yard. The 
earliest reference to the Red Bull that I can find is 
i599> ^^ which year a portion of the auditorium fell, 
possibly one of the inn galleries, during the performance 
of a puppet play ; but later on, frequent aljusions to this 
house, mostly disparaging, are to be found in the con- 
temporary dramatists, who refer to it much in the same 
strain as did the burlesque writers of thirty years ago to 
the old Victoria; from which we may gather that its 
plays were of the blood-and-thunder school, and that 
its players were the *' perriwig-pated fellows, who 
tore a passion to rags, to very tatters," referred to by 

Another notable theatre of the period was the Cockpit, 
in Drury Lane; the spot on which it stood was, until 
late years, marked by a squalid court, called Pitt Place ; 
it is now covered by model lodging-houses. When the 


Cockpit was first used for theatrical purposes is not 
known ; the name sufficiently explains its origin, and 
probably after the actors had taken possession of the 
place, mains might have been fought as a relief to 
Melpomene or Thalia. Although the Cockpit was a 
private and therefore an aristocratic theatre, it seems to 
have been closely connected with the Red Bull, the 
company of which frequently performed there. On 
Shrove Tuesday, 1616-17, while ** Queen Annes 
Servants" (the Queen of James I.) were performing, 
the London apprentices sacked and set fire to the house. 
The Cockpit seems to have been in ill odour, and it is 
a significant fact that Shrovetide was the season when 
" the flat caps " considered it a privilege of their order 
to attack brothels and bagnios; but it has also been 
suggested that jealousy of the privileges of a private 
theatre may have had something to do with the riot. 
The Cockpit was speedily rebuilt, and appropriately 
renamed the Phoenix. Towards the close of the Pro- 
tectorate, the rigorous edicts against theatrical amuse- 
ments were relaxed; and in 1658, Davenant obtained 
permission to bring out an ** opera," called The Cruelty 
of the Spaniards^ at this house. The Phoenix continued 
to be used for dramatic representation after the Restora- 
tion, until the opening of the new theatre in Drury 

In theatrical annals, frequent allusion is made to a 
playhouse called the Whitefriars ; recent researches, how- 
ever, lead to the conclusion that this place was no more 
than the refectory or hall of the old Carmelite monastery, 
which had once almost adjoined the Temple, and that it 
was occasionally fitted up for dramatic exhibitions. Plays 

^ The Cockpit referred to in Pepys' Diary y after Aug. 18 and Oct. 11, 
was not this but the royal private theatre in Whitehall Palace. 


were represented here as early as 1580, and after being 
dispossessed of the Blackfriars, the Children of the 
Revels would seem to have made it their headquarters. 
Apprentices and mechanics occasionally played here, and 
might have furnished Shakespeare with types of Bottom 
and his associates, whom they probably much resembled ; 
but if it were ever a regular theatre, it was far inferior to 
its contemporaries. 

Pepys writes that he saw Massinger's Bondman at '*the 
White-fryars," but he might have meant Salisbury Court. 

Salisbury Court, built in 1629, was the last theatre 
erected previous to the Restoration. This occupied a 
portion of the site of Dorset House, now covered by 
Salisbury Square, Fleet Street. It was suppressed in 
1644 ; fell into decay, and was rebuilt in 1660 ; its second 
lease of life was a brief one, as it was destroyed in the 
great fire of 1666. 

And now, having thus briefly sketched the history of 
the pre- Restoration theatres, let me endeavour to possess 
the reader with some conception of their arrangements, 
their audiences, and the manner in which plays were 
represented in them. 

The circular or hexagonal form seems to have been 
the favourite amongst the builders of the Elizabethan 
theatres. The Globe was hexagonal, and the first 
Fortune Theatre was modelled exactly upon the lines 
of the Bankside house; when it was rebuilt after the 
fire, however, according to a picture extant, it had a flat 
fa9ade. The dimensions of the first of the Golden Lane 
houses have been handed down to us, and they were 
identical with those of the Globe. The stage was 43 
feet wide and, including the tiring-room at the back, 39^ 
deep ; although it was only 32 feet from floor to ceiling, 
it had three tiers of galleries. The cost of the erection 


was ;^550, while that of the Globe was £600 \ but the 
latter was painted, and the Fortune was not Both 
houses when rebuilt were probably greatly enlarged; 
the word ''great" is frequently used by contemporaries 
when referring to the Globe. 

There was a marked distinction between the public 
and private theatres; the latter were only three in number, 
the Blackfriars,'the Cockpit, and Salisbury Court, and 
the performances given in them seem to have been in 
lieu of those which formerly took place in the great 
mansions. They were chiefly patronised by the nobility, 
who rented private boxes or rooms, of which they kept 
the keys, and who enjoyed the privilege of sitting upon 
the stage during the play. 

At the private houses the performances were given 
by candle or torch light; whereas in the public ones, 
which were open only in summer, they commenced at 
three o'clock in the afternoon, at which hour a flag was 
hoisted on the roof, and trumpets blown to announce the 
opening-time. The Blackfriars was completely roofed 
in, and the pit was furnished with seats ; while the Globe 
was only partly covered, and ''the groundlings" or 
"undertakers," as the pittites were called, had to stand. 
The difference between the two audiences is set forth in 
Shirley's prologue to The Doubtful Heir (1640), which, 
written for the Blackfriars, was, for some reason, pro- 
duced at the Globe : — 

" No shew, no dance, and what you most delight in, 
Grave undertakers, here's no target fighting . . . 
No clown, no squibs, no devil in*t . . . 
But you that can content yourselves and sit, 
As you were now in the Blackfriar's pit, 
But will not deafen us with loud noise and tongues, 
Because we have no heart to break our lungs, 
Will pardon our vast stage, and not disgrace 
The play meant for your persons, not your place." 


The private theatres, according to the Historia 
Histrionica of Wright, were very small, and " all these 
were built almost exactly alike for form and bigness." 
The public theatres were the resort of the commonality, 
who formed a noisy and unruly audience, romping, 
smoking, nut-cracking, drinking, playing at cards. 

The prices of admission to the two classes of theatres 
ranged from twopence to half-a-crown ; but a shilling 
seems to have been ordinarily the highest price in 
Shakespeare's time. Ben Jonson, in the induction to 
Cynthia s Revels^ calls the stools upon the stage twelve- 
penny seats. 

A further testimony to those already quoted regarding 
the superiority of the English theatres is to be found in 
that curious book of travels, of the year 1608, called 
Coryat's Crudities. During his stay in Venice the 
author writes : *' I was at one of their playhouses, where 
I saw a comedy acted. The house is very beggarly 
and bare in comparison with our stately playhouses in 
England, neither can their acting compare with ours for 
apparell, shews, and musick. Here I observed certain 
things that I never saw before, for I saw women act, a 
thing I never saw before, though I have heard that it 
hath been sometimes used in London^ and they performed 
it with as good grace, action, gesture, and whatsoever 
convenient for a play as ever I saw a masculine actor." 

Each company had its own dramatists, who wrote 
plays for its exclusive use ; the Blackfriars and the 
Globe had incomparably the finest repertory; Shake- 
speare wrote only for those, and most of the master- 
pieces of Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Webster, 

' The italics are my own ; as it is generally believed that the first 
English actress did not appear until after the Restoration, the suggestion 
in the text is curious, but no confirmation of it has been discovered. 


Ford, Massinger, Middleton, Chapman, Cyril Tourneur, 
Shirley, etc., were there produced. After the two 
houses just named, the best plays were given at the 

And what of the actors who interpreted these 
marvellous dramas ? To judge from contemporary 
opinion, they were worthy of the verses set down for 
them. The Elizabethan dramatists wrote for the day, 
without a thought of posterity ; for the stage, not for the 
cjoset ; and therefore it is highly improbable that Shake- 
speare and his associates would have given to the stage 
such gigantic conceptions as Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet, 
Volpone, Arbaces, Vittoria Corombona, Deflores, Vin- 
dice, and scores of others, unless the actors were capable 
of embodying them. And how thoroughly the art of 
acting was understood by these writers is testified to in 
Hamlet's speech to the players, which has been, and 
will be to all time, the text-book of the profession. 
Therefore, as a natural corollary to these arguments, 
we must believe that the greatest of all dramatic ages 
was the greatest of all histrionic. Upon the acting of 
Richard Burbage and Edward Alleyn, the first inter- 
preters of some of the greatest of the poets* creations, 
the most glowing eulogies were pronounced ; indeed, all 
the principal actors of the time are highly praised in 
contemporary literature. And it would be strange in- 
deed if those glorious dramas, hot from the imagination 
of the writers, had not inspired a kindred genius in the 
souls of the players, so many of whom were dramatists 
themselves, imparting to their interpretations a power, 
a freshness, and an originality of which even the greatest 
of their successors could have felt only the afterglow. 

Concerning their private life, Wright, in the Historia 
Histrionzca, tells us that **all the actors lived in reputa- 



tion, especially those of the Blackfriars, who were men 
of grave and sober behaviour." And it is worthy of 
remark that in all legal documents in which they are 
mentioned, the leading actors are invariably styled 
"gentlemen," which is a complete refutation of the 
common error that a certain statute of Elizabeth dubbed 
the entire profession rogues and vagabonds, whereas 
such terms applied only to wandering and unlicensed 
players. Indeed, such men as Burbage, Shakespeare, 
AUeyn, and many others, held a high social position, 
and were the friends and companions of the first nobility 
in the days when the aristocracy were not in the habit 
of consorting with their inferiors. From their proximity 
to the City, the Blackfriars actors were particularly 
exposed to the attacks of the Puritans, who generally 
affected that neighbourhood ; these were continually 
petitioning the King, as their predecessors had in the 
days of the Theatre, to suppress the Blackfriars, on 
account of the great injury done to their business by the 
vast concourse of vehicles, and the crowds of people 
that flocked to the house. ^ 

The average daily takings at the Blackfriars ranged 
from £20 to ;^30. The current expenses for rent, 
lighting, and the salaries of the inferior actors amounted 
to 45^., and the residue was divided among the principals, 
so that, considering the value of money in those days, 
it is not surprising that most of the shareholders died 

What little we know of the arrangements of the Eliza- 
bethan stage is chiefly derived from the plays, and, un- 
fortunately, these leave us in great doubt as to the adjuncts 
and what we should now call the "mounting." Certain 
entries in Henslowe's Diary prove that the pieces were 

1 See Note at the end of the book. 


dressed with a magnificence that would compare even with 
the productions of the present day. We read in that 
curious account-book that £2 1 was paid for two two-pile 
velvet cloaks at 20s. ^d. a yard, and for satin and 
taffeta at 1 2s. and 1 25. 6d. a yard ; in another place it is 
stated that ;^I9 was given for a cloak ; £6 i^s. for Mrs. 
Frankford s gown^ in A Woman Killed with Kindness. 
Now as money was then worth at least five times its 
present value, these sums must be multiplied by that 
number. And these splendid costumes were for the 
Fortune, a public and an inferior theatre. 

The Blackfriars was celebrated for its fine orchestra ; 
yet so far from this being an expense to the managers, 
the musicians appear to have paid them an annual 
stipend for the privilege of playing there : probably 
because it brought them before the notice of the aristo- 
cratic patrons. 

-^ We now come to the vexed and oft-discussed question, 
'whether scenery of any kind was used to illustrate the 
Elizabethan drama. In the Historia Histrionica, which 
was published in 1 699, it is distinctly stated that scenes 
were first introduced upon the public stage by Sir 
William Davenant at the Duke s old theatre in Lincoln's 
Inn Fields, in 1661, and the play, or rather opera, re- 
ferred to was The Siege of Rhodes. Downes, the 
prompter, confirms this in his History of the Stage. 
Writing of this play, he says, •* having new scenes and 
decorations, being the first that were ever introduced 
into England "—Downes, however, is not a trustworthy 
authority. Davenant s own words in the preface to the 
play are curious and somewhat ambiguous. ** It has 
been often wished that our scenes (we having obliged 
ourselves to the variety of five changes, according to the 

* More than poor Thomas Heywood received for writing the play. 


ancient dramatic distinction made for time) had not been 
confined to atx>ut eleven feet the height and fifteen in 
depth, including the place of passage reserved for the 
music." We may gather from this that the scenes used 
in The Siege of Rhodes were little more than screens.* 
It should be noted that in the passage quoted from 
Historia Htstrtontca^ the word public theatre is used ; 
and as just previously the author has been discussing 
the difference between the public and private theatres, 
the word is at least suggestive. When Downes tells us 
that the scenes used in the Siege of Rhodes were the 
first ever introduced into England, he puts himself out 
of court, since we know that Ben Jonson's and Shirley's 
Masques were illustrated by scenic effects, devised by 
Inigo Jones, that would tax the powers even of a 
modern artist^ 

Pages might be filled with quotations from the works 
of these dramatists in proof of the above assertion, but 
I must content myself with an extract from the stage 
directions in Shirley's Masque of Peace, performed 
before King Charles at Whitehall, in 1633, at the extra- 
ordinary cost of ;^20,ooo. The first scene represented 
a street with sumptuous palaces, lodges, porticoes, trees, 
and grounds ; beyond, in a spacious plain, was the forum 
of Peace ; " and over all was a clear sky with transparent 
clouds, which enlightened all the scene." This changed 
to a wooded landscape with bushes and byways. Then 
" there appeared in the foremost part of the heavens 
little by little to break forth a whitish cloud, bearing a 

* Pcpys notes going to see this play, July 2nd, but it is rather curious 
that he makes no mention of such a startling innovation as the introduction 
of movable scenes. 

' It is said, but I cannot give the authority, that scenes were used 
in Sir John Suckling's Aglaura, produced at the Blackfriars in 1629, at 
a cost of three or four hundred pounds. 


golden chariot, in which sat Peace ; in another cloud, in 
a silver chariot, sat Law ; and from a third descended 
Justice. Passing over several other transformations, we 
come to the last scene. The stage represented a plain, 
above which was a dark sky with dusky clouds, through 
these the new moon appeared, but with the faint light of 
approaching morning ; from a certain part of the ground 
arose little by little a great vapour, which, when it came 
to the middle of the scene, began to fall downwards to 
the earth ; and out of this rose another cloud, of a 
strange shape and colour, in which sat a young maid, 
with a dim torch in her hand, costumed in dark blue, 
sprinkled with silver spangles, and with white buskins 
trimmed with gold upon her legs, to represent the 
dawn," etc. Here we have scenic effects that Sir 
Henry Irving or Mr. Beerbohm Tree might be proud 

That the stage arrangements of the public theatres 
were of a very plain description we may very well 
believe, but that no attempt was made to introduce scenic 
effects into the private houses, and above all into the 
Blackfriars, seems incredible ; more especially when we 
find that such accessories were freely used in the old 
Mysteries and Moralities, at least as far back as Henry 
the Seventh s time. Among the entries in some manu- 
script accounts of the City and Corporation of Canterbury 
is the following : for a play called The Three Kings of 
Colyn, produced on Twelfth Night, 1 501-2, at the 
Guildhall : "A castle made of painted canvas was 
erected in the room by way of scenery." The Eliza- 
bethan drama abounds in stage directions, which, if 
every kind of scenic effect was unknown, are perfectly 
meaningless. Even in so early a play as Lodge's and 
Greenes A Looking Glass for London, we read, "the 


magi beat the ground with their rods, and from under 
the same rises a brave arbour." There are several 
similar directions in this play. In a series of dramas 
upon the four ages of the world, written by Thomas 
Hey wood for the Red Bull, numerous scenic effects are 
mentioned. In The Brazen Age^ Jupiter strikes Hercules 
with a thunderbolt ; his body sinks, and from the heavens 
descends a hand in a cloud, that, from the place where 
Hercules was burnt, brings up a star and fixes it in the 
firmament. In Shakespeare's Cymbeline (first folio) we 
read that Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning 
sitting upon an eagle, throwing a thunderbolt ; Romeo, 
when forcing the tomb of all the Capulets, could not 
have used his crowbar against a curtain ; and some kind 
of scenery must have been employed in Macbeth, King 
Lear, and the historical plays, in which numerous stage 
directions occur. Even realism was not unknown among 
the Elizabethans, for when Macbeth was played at the 
Globe, the Thane of Cawdor and Banquo made their 
first entrance upon horseback. The stage directions to 
the second act of Jonson's Bartholemew Fair are *' a 
number of booths, stalls, etc., are set out"; and in 
Middleton's Roaring Girl there is a scene in which 
three different shops are represented with people sew- 
ing therein, and carrying on a cross dialogue, quite in the 
modern style. There is a passage in the induction to 
Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels that is very suggestive. 
"Slid, the boy, takes me for a piece of perspective, 
I hold my life, or some silk curtain^ come to hang the 
stage here. I am none of your fresh pictures, that use 
to beautify the decayed dead arras of a public theatre." 

^ As a proof of the handsome manner in which the theatres were 
appointed, it may he stated that even the company of the Red Bull lx)asted 
that their curtain was of Naples silk. 


The word perspective here evidently means a painting 
of some kind. There is scarcely a play among the 
many hundreds written at this period from which similar 
circumstantial evidence could not be drawn- Many of 
the stage situations, however, such as the balcony scene 
in Romeo and Juliet, the fall of Arthur from the battle- 
ments in King John, could have been carried out by 
means of a platform about ten feet high, that, sup- 
ported by pillars, was raised at the back of the stage ; 
curtains were hung in front of this erection, and only 
drawn when it was required. Sir Philip Sidney's de- 
scription of the stage of his day* has been frequently 
quoted to prove that scenery was not used in the 
Elizabethan theatres; but the author of Arcadia died 
in the very infancy of the drama, 1586 — years before 
the Blackfriars was founded, and before Shakespeare 
began to write. Thus his testimony goes for nothing. 

The exact resources which the Elizabethan dramatists 
had at their command, however, is a point that is never 
likely to be satisfactorily cleared up. And now, setting 
. aside theory and conjecture, let me endeavour to con- 
jure up a vision of a play-day at the Blackfriars. But 
as no picture of this theatre has ever been discovered, 
the presentment, gathered from hints and passages 
scattered throughout many plays, must necessarily be 
a very imperfect one. 

To eyes accustomed to the glare of our modem 
artificial illuminants, the interior lit up by candles would 

^ 1 " Now you shall see these ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we 
must believe the stage to be a garden. By-and-by we hear news of a ship- 
wreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if we accept it not for a 
rock. Upon the back of that comes out a hideous monster, with fire and 
smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave ; 
while in the meantime two armies fly in, represented by four swords and 
bucklers," etc. 


appear plunged in semi-darkness ; a silken curtain which 
runs upon an iron rod and opens in the middle at 
present conceals the stage, so we will begin by looking 
round at the auditorium! On three sides are tiers of 
galleries, well filled with splendidly dressed ladies and 
gentlemen, and beneath these are small rooms or boxes. 
The prices to the former have varied at different times 
from sixpence to a shilling ; and the latter from a 
shilling to two, or two-and-sixpence. In a small balcony 
on one side the stage is ranged the orchestra, and the 
musicians play before the piece and between the acts as 
in a modern theatre. Were we in the Globe, the noise 
from the groundlings would be deafening. There the 
audience indulge in nut-cracking, apple-eating, ale- 
drinking, card-playing, romping, flirting, and rioting 
indescribable ;^ but here all is quiet and decorous. And 
now, at a triple flourish of trumpets, the curtains open 
and disclose the stage. As a tragedy is to be repre- 
sented it is hung with black,' and, like the halls of the 
nobles, the boards are strewn with rushes ; the curtain 
at the back is still closed, and the walls at the sides are 
hidden by faded arras. Although the actors have not 
yet appeared, the stage is half-filled with ladies and 
gallants, seated upon three-legged stools, some of the 
gentlemen lying at their ladies' feet with their heads 
in their laps, and fanning themselves, as we see Hamlet 
in the play scene. And here we have thejeunesse dorde 
of Elizabeth's or James's Court, the Mercufios, the 
Tybalts, the Benedicts, the Don Pedros, and the 
Romeos ; the Beatrices, the Katherines, the Olivias, but 

^ Some very amusing satire upon the audiences of this time is to be 
found in Beaumont's Knight ofthi Burning Pestle, 

* "Hung be the heavens with h\aLc\iJ' —First Part of Henry F/., Act i, 
Sc 2. 


not, I fear, the Desdemonas and Ophelias — their gor- 
geous costumes making a splendid contrast to the sombre 
background with the sheen of satin and velvet and 
the glitter of precious stones. It is a picture gallery ; 
the close-cropped hair, the enormous ruffs, the huge 
trunk hose, the feet half concealed by the splendid roses 
in the shoes, the ladies in their pearled stomachers, and 
swelling farthingales stiff with gold and silver and pearl 
embroidery ; we have seen it all in old portraits. At 
the back of each cavalier stands a page, a veritable 
Moth, whose duty it is to keep his master's pipe supplied 
with tobacco from " the fine lily pots," that, upon being 
opened, smell like conserve of roses, while between a 
pair of silver tongs he holds a glowing coal of juniper 
wood to ignite the Virginian weed, which is ** drunk," as 
the phrase goes, from bowls of silver or clay of many 
curious shapes, so that the atmosphere resembles that of 
a modern music-hall. The actors are dressed in the 
costume of the period, many of the nobility being in the 
habit of sending them their cast-off suits. Comments 
are passed freely upon the play and the players ; those 
of least judgment being, as usual, loudest in condemna- 
tion. Would I could picture Burbage in Hamlet and 
Shakespeare as the Ghost ; but that is beyond the 
power of imagination — mine, at least — and so let this 
poor dim attempt at a presentment of the Elizabethan 
stage fade away. 

No other English theatre has ever held so exalted a 
position, both from a dramatic and a histrionic point 
of view, as that occupied by the Blackfriars from 1609 
until its suppression under the Commonwealth. Inde- 
pendent of the vulgar, it had never to descend to those 
wretched expedients to attract the crowd which for 
more than two hundred years have at different times 


shamed every London stage, while it gave to the 
world a dramatic literature incomparable in its grandeur 
and abundance. The Com^die Fran9aise is the only 
other theatre in the world of which so much can be 

Note to page 10. — A distinguished Shakespearian student 
opines that All Is True was Shakespeare's play upon Henry 
VIII., and that it perished in the flames. It is well known that 
some of the highest authorities hold that the Henry VIII in- 
cluded in Shakespeare's works was written by Fletcher. It 
would be impossible in this place to set forth the arguments 
upon which this contention is based, beyond a reference to the 
use of a redundant syllable at the end of the lines, which is a 
very rare occurrence in the greater poet, but quite a trick of 
Fletcher's, and a certain weak prettiness in the speeches of 
Wolsey and Catherine. 


The Stage under the Commonwealth— The Red Bull— Cockpit— Vere Street 
Theatre — The First English Actress — Lincoln's Inn Fields — Dorset 
Gardens — Audiences — Actors — The Drama of the Time. 

VERY curious and interesting are the records which 
have come down to us of the period which inter- 
vened between the final suppression of the theatres 
in 1647, and their reopening at the Restoration. The 
first edict was issued on September 6th, 1642 ; this 
seems, however, to have been generally evaded. But 
in the second edict all actors were threatened with 
imprisonment, and soon afterwards followed a third, 
which declared all players to be rogues and vagabonds, 
and authorised the justices to demolish all galleries and 
seats ; it also enacted that any player discovered in the 
exercise of his vocation should be whipped for the first 
offence, and for the second declared an incorrigible 
rogue and vagabond, and every person found witnessing 
the performance of a stage play should be fined five 

What followed will best be told in the words of 
original authorities. My first quotation is from that 
very notable little book or pamphlet entitled Historia 
Histrionica : an historical account of the English Stage, 
etc., supposed to have been written by James Wright, of 
New Inn, and published 1699, to which I have referred 

^ This was the only edict by which the legitimate actor was ever branded 
as a rogue and a vagabond. See Note at the end of the book. 



several times in the last chapter. The text is in the 
form of a dialogue between Lovewit and Trueman, 
which, after dwelling upon the actors and theatres of 
Elizabeth, James, and Charles the First's time, thus 
proceeds : — 

*' Lovewit. — But prythee, Trueman, what became of 
those players when the stage was put down, and the 
rebellion raised ? 

" 7>7^fwa«.— Most of them, except Lowin, Taylor, and 
Pollard (who were superannuated), went into the King s 
army, and, like good men and true, served their old 
master, though in a different yet more honourable 
capacity. Robinson^ was killed at the taking of a place 
(I think Basing. House) by Harrison, he that was after 
hanged at Charing Cross, who refused him quarter, and 
shot him in the head when he had lain down his arms, 
abusing scripture at the same time by saying : Cursed 
is he that doth the work of the Lord negligently. Mohun 
was a captain, and (after the wars were ended here) 
served in Flanders, where he received pay as a major. 
Hart was a lieutenant of horse under Sir Thomas 
Dallison, in Prince Rupert's regiments ; Burt was cornet 
in the same troop, and Shatterel quartermaster; Allen 
of the Cockpit was a major, and quartermaster-general 
at Oxford. I have not heard of one of these players 
of any note that sided with the other party, but only 
Swanston ; and he professed himself a Presbyterian, 
took up the trade of a jeweller, and lived in Alderman- 
bury, within the territory of Father Calamy. The rest 
either lost or exposed their lives for their King. When 

^ Lowin was a famous Falstaff, and the original Volpone, Bosola, Sir 
Epicure Mammon ; Taylor was Burbage's successor in tragedy ; Robinson 
is mentioned in the first folio as one of the original actors in Shakespeare's 


the wars were over, and the Royalists totally subdued, 
most of 'em who were left alive gathered to London, and 
for a subsistence endeavoured to revive their old trade 
privately. They made up one company out of all the 
scattered members of several, and in the winter before 
the King's murder, 1648, they ventured to act some plays, 
with as much caution and privacy as could be, at the 
Cockpit. They continued undisturbed for three or four 
days ; but, at last, as they were presenting the tragedy 
of the Bloody Brother (in which Lowin acted Aubrey ; 
Taylor, Rollo ; Pollard, the Cook ; Burt, Latorch ; and, 
I think. Hart, Otto), a party of foot soldiers beset the 
house, surprised them about the middle of the play, and 
carried 'em away in their habits, not admitting them to 
shift, to Hatton House, then a prison, where, having 
detained them some time, they plundered them of their 
clothes, and let 'em loose again. Afterwards, in Oliver's 
time, they used to act privately, three or four miles or 
more out of town, now here, now there ; sometimes in 
noblemen's houses, in particular Holland House at 
Kensington, where the nobility and gentry who met 
(but in no great numbers) used to make a sum for them, 
each giving a broad piece, or the like. And Alexander 
Goffe, the woman actor at Blackfriars (who had made 
himself known to persons of quality), used to be the 
Jackal, and give notice of time and place. At Christmas 
and Bartholomew fair, they used to bribe the officer who 
commanded the guard at Whitehall, and were thereupon 
connived at to act for a few days at the Red Bull, but 
were sometimes, notwithstanding, disturbed by soldiers." 

According to Kirkman, the dramatist, in his preface 
to The Wits ; or^ Sport upon Sport (1673), puppet plays 
upon scriptural, classical, and rustic subjects were given 


at the Red Bull during this interregnum by Mr. Robert 
Cox, and attracted crowded houses, that being the 
only kind of theatrical entertainment allowed by the 

In 1643 was published a pamphlet with the following 
lengthy title : " The Actor s Remonstrance or Complaint 
for the Silencing of their Profession, and Banishment 
from their several Playhouses, in which is fully set down 
their grievances from their Restraint, especially since 
Stage Players only are prohibited : the exercise of the 
Bears College (Bear Garden), and the motions of 
Puppets being still in force and vigour." 

This is one of the most curiqus theatrical brochures 
extant, abounding as it does in allusions to the manners 
and customs of the theatres of the preceding generation. 
The appeal is addressed to Phoebus and the Muses. 

'* Oppressed [the petitioners begin] with many calami- 
ties, and languishing to death under the burthen of a 
long and (for ought we know) everlasting restraint, wee,, 
the comedians, tragedians^ and actors, of all sorts and 
sizes, belonging to the famous private and publike houses 
within the City of London, and the suburbs thereof, in 
all humility present this our lamentable complaint. 

" First, it is not unknowne to all the audiences that 
have frequented the private houses of Blackfriars, the 
Cockpit, and Salisbury Court, that wee have purged our 
stages from all obscene and scurrilous jests, such as 
might either be guilty of corrupting the manners, or 
defaming the persons of any men of note in the city 
or kingdom ; that wee have endeavoured, as much as in 
us lies, to instruct one another in the true and genuine 
art of acting, to repress bawling and ranting, formerly 
in great request, and for to suit our language and action 
to the more gentle and natural garb of the times. Yet 


are wee, by authority, restrained from the practice of our 
profession, and left to live upon our shifts, or the expense 
of our former gettings, to the great impoverishment and 
utter undoings of ourselves, wives, children, and de- 
pendants. Besides, which is, of all others, our greatest 
grievance, that playes being put down, under the name 
of publike recreation, other recreations of farre more 
harmful! consequence are permitted still to stand, viz., 
that nurse of barbarism and beastlinesse, the Bear 
Garden, where, upon their usuall dayes, those demi- 
monsters. are baited by ban dogs . . . pickpockets, 
which in an age are not heard of in any of our houses, 
repairing there, with other disturbers of the publike 
peace, which dare not be seen in our civill and well- 
goverened theatres, where none used to come but the 
best nobility and gentry." 

It is complained that : " Puppet PlaySy which are not 
so valuable as the very mustque between each act at ours, 
are still kept up with uncontrolled allowance ; witness 
the famous motion of Bel and the Dragon^ so frequently 
visited at Holborne Bridge theese passed Christmasse 
holidays, whither citizens of all parts repaire, with farre 
more detriment to themselves than ever did the playes, 
comedies, and tradgedies being the lively representation 
of men's actions, in which vice is always sharply glanced 
at and punished, vertue rewarded and encouraged, and 
the most exact and naturall eloquence of our English 
language expressed and duly amplified, and yet for all 
this do we suffer in various ways. . . . 

** Our fooles, who had wont to excite laughter with 
their countenances at their first appearance on the stage 
(hard shifts are better than none), are enforced, some of 
them at least, to maintain themselves by virtue of their 
baubles. Our boyes^ ere we shall have libertie to act 


againe, will be grown out of use like crackt organ pipes, 
and have faces as old as our flags. Nay, our verie doore 
keeperSy men and women, most grievously complain that 
by this cessation they are robbed of the privilege of 
stealing from us with licence ; they cannot now seem to 
scratch their heads where they itch not, and drop 
shillings and half-crown pieces in at their collars. Our 
musiquey that was held so delectable and precious, that 
they scorned to go to a tavern under twentie shillings 
salary for two hours, now wander with their instruments 
under their cloaks, I meane such as have any, into all 
houses of good fellowship, saluting every roome where 
there is company, with. Will you have any mTisique^ 
gentlemen ? For our tire-men and others that belonged 
formerly to our wardrobe, with the rest they are out of 
service, our stock of cloathes such as are not in tribula- 
tion for the generall use, being a sacrifice to moths. . . . 

"The tobacco-men that used to walk up and down 
selling for a penny a pipe that which was not worth 
twelvepence a horseload, are now found tapsters in 
inns and tipling houses. Nay, such a terrible distresse 
and dissolution hath befallen us, that it hath quite 
unmade our hopes of future recoverie. For some of 
our ablest ordinarie poets, instead of their annuall 
stipends and beneficiall second daies^ being, for meere 
necessitie, compelled to get a living by writing con- 
temptible penny pamphlets, and feigning miraculous 
stories and unheard of battels. Nay, it is to be feared 
that shortly some of them will be incited to write 

The petitioners conclude : ** In consequence of theese 
evils by invoking the powerfull intercession of Phoebus, 
that they may be reinstated in their former homes 
and calling, and promise, in return, to admit none but 


reputable females into their sixpenny rooms, or boxes, to 
permit nothing but the best tobacco to be sold in the 
theatre, to avoid ribaldry, and, generally, so to demean 
themselves, that they shall no longer be deemed 

Mention has already been made of the first dawn of 
the revival — the performance of Sir William Davenant's 
Cruelty of tie Spaniards at the Cockpit in 1656, which 
indicates that the rigours of fanaticism were beginning 
to relax. Though it has been alleged that the reason of 
this relaxation was Cromwells hatred of the Spaniards, 
and that to place that nation in an odious light he would 
even condone a stage play. 

As soon as Monk at the head of his army declared 
for the King, the actors who had survived the hard times 
crept out of their hiding-places, and were collected 
together by Rhodes, formerly prompter at the Black- 
friars, under whom they performed at the Red Bull. 
Rhodes afterwards played at the Cockpit and at 
Salisbury Court ; but ere this the best of his actors had 
gone over to Killigrew, and it was probably the remnant 
of the old ** book-keepers" troupe that P.epys alludes to 
in the following passage, which is the last notice to be 
found of the St. John s Street Theatre. 

"March 23rd, 1661. — To the Red Bull (where I had 
not been since plays came up again), up to the tiring 
rooms, where strange the confusion and disorder that is 
among them in fitting themselves, especially here where 
the clothes are very poor, and actors but common 
fellows. At last, into the pit where I think there was 
not above ten more than myself, and not one hundred in 
the whole house. And the play, which is called All's 
Lost by Lusty poorly done, and with so much disorder ; 
among others, in the music room, the boy who was to 


sing a song not singing it right, his master fell about his 
ears, and beat him so that the whole house was in an 

The great theatrical novelty of the Restoration was 
the introduction of women upon the stage. A company 
of French actors, in which women were included, had 
appeared at the Blackfriars, and afterwards at the Red 
Bull and the Fortune, in 1629; but very great hostility 
was manifested against them. In an article upon this 
subject in The Drama, or Theatrical Magazine, 1823, 
it is stated that "in 1656, Mrs. Coleman, the wife of 
Mr. Edward Coleman, represented lanthe in the first 
part of Davenant s Siege of Rhodes, but the little she 
had to say was spoken in recitative." I have not been 
able, however, to find a verification of this statement. 
In The Court Beggar, played at the Cockpit in 1632, 
one of the characters says, *' Women actors now grow 
in great repute." The passage may have referred to 
the French company just mentioned. 

During the next thirty years, however, a marvellous 
change took place in public opinion, for in Davenant's 
patent it is stated : " Whereas the women's parts in 
plays have hitherto been acted by men, at which some 
have taken offence, we do give leave that for the time 
to come all women's parts be acted by women." Yet 
for several years after this was written boys and young 
men continued to share the heroines of tragedy and 
comedy with the actresses. In 1672, while the Drury 
Lane company, after the fire, were performing at 
Lincoln's Inn Fields, several plays — Philaster, The 
Parsons Wedding, The Maiden Queen — were acted 
entirely by women, and two of Dryden s coarsest pro- 
logues were written for the occasion. 

On the 3rd of January, 1661, Pepys notes going to 


see Beggars Busk a second time, "it being very well 
done, and here the first time that I ever saw women 
come upon the stage." On the 7th of the same 
month, however, he saw Jonson's Silent Woman, with 
** Kinaston the boy" as Epicoene; and records his im- 
pression that, in female attire, he was the prettiest 
woman in the whole house, and as a man " likewise did 
appear the handsomest man in the house." 

As the two most famous theatres of the Restoration, 
Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn, are treated of in the 
next part, I will pass on to Dorset Gardens, ** the 
splendid new house " that Davenant began to erect, just 
before his death, a little to the south of old Salisbury 
Court and close to the river, to which the company 
removed on November 9th, 1671. 

Dorset Gardens was larger than either Lincoln's Inn 
Fields or Drury Lane ; it was built by subscription, and 
the subscribers were called "Adventurers." I shall have 
more to say of these anon. The great feature of Dorset 
Gardens was the magnificence of its scenery and appoint- 
ments, or in modern parlance, "its get up," which is 
referred to and satirised by Dryden in several of his 
prologues, where he writes of "the gaudy house with 
scenes,"^ "the gay shows with gaudy scenes." The 
following passage from a prologue to Tunbridge Wells, 
a comedy written in 1678, animadverting upon the 
theatrical taste of that day, is so full of suggestion that 
with little alteration it might be well applied to our 

own . « There's not a player but is turn'd a scout ; 
And every scribbler sends his envoys out 
To fetch from Paris, Venice, or from Rome, 
Fantastic fopperies to please at home ; 

1 "The gaudy house with scenes will serve for cits," would seem to 
point to the conclusion that Dorset Gardens was chiefly patronised by the 


And that each act may rise to your desire, 
Devils and witches must each scene inspire. 
Wit rolls in waves, and showers down in fire ; 
With what strange care a play may now be writ, 
When the best half's composed by painting it, 
And in the air or dance lies all the wit/' 

Dorset Gardens continued to flourish until the amal- 
gamation, of the two companies,^ after which it was 
only occasionally opened for the representation of plays 
that required elaborate scenery and machinery. In 1689 
we find it styled the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Gardens, 
in honour, of course, of Queen Mary. But gradually, 
under the management of Christopher Rich, it fell into 
great degradation, being chiefly used as an arena for 
acrobats and wild beasts. In the prologue to Farquhar's 
Constant Couple (1700), allusion is made to a ** strong 
man " who then had possession of it — 

" Ah, friends ! Poor Dorset garden-house is gone. 
Quite lost to us ; and, for some strange misdeed, 
That strong man, Samson, 's puU'd it o'er our heads." 

In April, 1703, it was announced that as soon as the 
damage it had sustained **by the late storms" could be 
repaired, the theatre would be opened for opera ; but it 
does not appear that the promise was fulfilled. The 
last mention of Dorset Gardens is in Geneste, under the 
date of October 28th, 1706. 

Besides these theatres there was one in Barbican, also 
established by letters patent, 1662, called the Nursery, 
for training boys and girls for the stage, somewhat after 
the style of the Children of the Revels in the time of 
Elizabeth and James ; all obscene, scandalous, or ofien- 
sive passages were to be omitted from the plays presented 
there. The Nursery is referred to by Oldham, and in 

» Seep. 51. 


The Rehearsal; Pepys also mentions paying two visits 
to it. February 24th, 1667-8: — "To the Nursery, 
where none of us ever were before, where the house is 
better and the musique better than we looked for, and 
the acting not much worse, because I expected as 
bad as could be ; and I was not much mistaken, for 
it was so." The most pointed reference, however, to 
the Nursery, is to be found in Dryden's MacFlecknoe 

" Near these a Nursery erects its head, 
Where queens are formed, and future heroes bred. 
Where unfledged actors learn to laugh and cry, 
Where infant punks their tender voices try, 
And little Maximins the gods defy ; 
Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here, 
Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear ; 
But gentle Simkin just reception finds 
Amidst this monument of vanished minds." 

Although many of the plays of Shakespeare and his 
contemporaries were revived, though with so many 
alterations and additions that the originals were almost 
lost sight of, the drama of the Restoration was modelled 
rather upon the French than the English school; the 
comedies were marked by a gross indecency of dialogue 
— though that was not borrowed from our neighbours — 
while the rhymed tragedies were stilted and unnatural. 
Chief among the writers for the Duke's Company was 
Mrs. Aphra Behn, whose comedies probably surpass in 
licentiousness all but a very few of those of her male 
contemporaries ; yet it cannot be denied that, as dramatic 
compositions, they possess great merit ; the plots are 
most ingenious, and situation succeeds situation with the 
rapidity and "go" of a Palais Royal farce, and if her 
characters have little variety — nearly all being drawn 
upon the same lines, the silly senile citizen, with a young 


and amorous wife, the daring gallant, the intriguing 
chambermaid, all modelled upon the Spanish comedy — 
she has verve and vigour in the incidents and dialogue 
that must have rendered her plays very attractive to the 
free and easy audiences of the time. The repertoire of 
the Duke's Company seems to have been even worse 
in point of morals than that of its rival ; most of the 
notorious Edward Ravenscroft's pieces were written for 
Davenant, and the most abominable of all, The London 
Cuckolds. Etheredge's three comedies were produced 
here,^ and most of Thomas Shadwell's works, though 
the latter, who was an inferior Ben Jonson, was rather 
coarse than licentious. The greater part of Dryden's 
plays were brought out at Drury Lane, but the vilest 
of them, The Kind Keeper, was given by the Duke s 
Company, as was also one of his finest, The Spanish 
Friar. Crowne, one of the best of the Restoration 
dramatists, wrote several plays for Lincoln's Inn Fields, 
and many of Tom D'Urfey's licentious productions 
found the same interpreters. Elkanah Settle, in whose 
writings the so-called heroic drama reached its highest 
absurdity, wrote eight of his seventeen extravagances 
for Lincoln's Inn Fields or Dorset Gardens. But in 
The Orphan, and Venice Preserved of Otway, the 
Duke's Company secured the two noblest tragedies 
written from the time of Charles I. to the present 

The audiences were as licentious as the entertainment, 
and came but to see themselves and their manners 
reflected as in a looking-glass. Little of the play could 

* Of these The Man of Mode was the most remarkable, as being the 
first of what Lamb styles the artificial school of comedy— a school which 
attained its greatest brilliancy in Congreve, and closed for ever with 


have been heard amidst the uproar and clamour of the 
spectators, the gallants combing their long perriwigs 
and criticising the play aloud, or carrying on a flirtation 
with some masked female, or toying with the orange 
wenches, who were usually very important factors in the 
playhouses, and drove a profitable trade, since they 
charged sixpence each for their oranges. Nor were 
the humbler parts of the house behind the aristocratic 

in vice, 

" Our galleries were finely us'd of late, 
Where roosting masks sat cackling for a mate ; 
They came not to see plays, but act their own, 
And had throng'd audiences when we had none. 
Our plays it was impossible to hear, 
The honest country men were forced to swear." 

Epilogue to Sir Courtly Nice^ 1685. 

A similar picture is given in Dryden's prologue for 
The Women, 1672 — 

'' Here's good accommodation in the pit ; 
The grave demurely in the midst may sit, 
And so the hot Burgundian on the side 
Ply vizard masks, and o'er the benches stride. 
Here are convenient upper boxes too. 
For those that make the most triumphant show ; 
All that keep coaches must not sit below. 
These gallants yon betwixt the acts retire, 
And at dull plays have something to admire," etc. 

The young gallants frequently forced their way into 
the theatres without paying, or after staying in a little 
while demanded that their money should be returned ; 
these abuses evoked an edict from the King in 1673, 
by which all such practices were suppressed. 





QlU^C.U'i ''\'l'-rlY 


The Four Theatres Royal, Drury Lane, 1 663-1 903 — Their History, Actors, 
Traditions, and Literature — Also some account of the Theatres in Good- 
man's Fields. 

COLLEY GIBBER, in his famous Apology, tells 
us that Charles II. at the Restoration..gcaated,two 

th eatriral patf^ ntg, one to TEoma s Killigi-j^w^nj-nnm n^ ^ 

the Chamber, and the other to Sir William Davenant, 
who had greatly distinguished himself m'tlie 'Civil War; 
he thus conferred yp on th ese two courtiers the monopoly 
of the Lon don stagfe. The company of the first was 
called **The Kings Servants," of the second, **The 
Duke of York's Servants/* Davenant erected a theatre 
near Lincoln's Inn Fields, while Killigrew selected the 
site of a riding-yard in Drury Lane, that stood almost 
exactly upon the spot occupied by the present building. 
We must not, however, judge the Drury Lane of that 
day by its present aspect ; it was still an aristocratic 
quarter of the town, wherein were to be found the 
residences of the Earls of Craven and Clare, the Marquis 
of Argyll, the Earl of Anglesey, and other nobles, 
imposing structures standing in grounds and gardens. 
Nell Gwynne lived here when she was attached to the 
theatre. It was not until the close of the century that 
these mansions, deserted by their noble owners, fell into 
disreputable hands, when streets and courts and alleys 
began to cover their pleasaunces ; and in the time of 



Queen Anne, as we may gather from Swift and Gay, 
the neighbourhood had become utterly disreputable. 

The ground rent of the riding-yard was only ;^50 a 
year, and the cost of erecting the theatre ;^ 1,500; the 
dimensions of the building were 1 1 2 feet from east to west, 
and 59 feet from north to south. Although the patent 
was granted in August, 1660, the house was not ready 
until April 8th, 1663. But in the meantime Killigrew's 
company had been performing in a tennis court fitted up 
as a theatre in Vere Street, Clare Market, where, it 
is said, that on the 8th of December, 1660, the first 
English actress appeared in the character of Desdemona. 
A prologue spoken by the lady is to be found in 
Malone's History of the Stage. Her name is unknown. 
The first play acted at the new theatre was Beaumont 
and Fletcher's The Humourous Lieutenant The per- 
formance was announced to commence at three, and the 
prices were : boxes 4^., pit 2s. 6d., middle gallery 1^. 6d., 
upper gallery i^.^ 

In the travels of Balthasar de Monconys, published at 
Lyons in 1665, the following very interesting glimpse 
of the Theatre Royal, taken within two months of its 
opening, that is to say, on May 22nd, 1663, is given. 

** Uapr^s dinie nous fumes chez le Milord St Alban 
et de Ik a la comedie dans la loge du Roy. Le th64tre 
est la plus propre et le plus bien que j*ai jamais vu, tout 
tapiss^ par le bas de bayette verte ; aussi bien que 
toutes les loges qui en sont tapissAs avec des bandes de 
cuir dovL Tous les bancs du parterre, ou toutes les 
personnes de condition se mettent aussi, sont ranger en 
amphitheatre les uns plus hauts que les autres. Les 
changemens de th64tre, et les machines sont fort in- 
genieusement in ventres et execut6es." 

^ It was not called the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, until the next 
century, being usually spoken of as '' The Theatre Royal." 


M. Monconys, who was governor to the Due de 
Chevreux, also visited the Duke's Theatre. 

"L'apr^ din6 je fus k la comedie du Due d'York 
oil les changemens de sc^ne me plurent beaucoup, mais 
non pas la froideur des actions et du parler tant des 
hommes que des femmes dans les pressans mouvements 
de colere et de crainte." 

When the Theatre Royal opened, some of the best of 
Davenant's actors, probably by royal command, came 
from Lincoln's Inn to join Killigrew. His leading 
tragedians, Hart and Mohun, were men of high reputa- 
tion ; Hart was Shakespeare's grand-nephew, being the 
grandson of the poets sister; contemporaries praised 
him enthusiastically, and it was said that in all the 
comedies and tragedies he was concerned in, he per- 
formed with that exactness and perfection that not any 
of his successors equalled him. Mohun, who had earned 
his title of Major in the civil wars, fighting on the side 
of the Cavaliers, was esteemed by the King, as a tragic 
actor, even above Hart ; Lacey, a famous Falstaff, the 
original Bayes in The Rehearsal^ mentioned in glowing 
terms by Pepys, was Charles s favourite actor ; a picture 
representing him in three characters may be seen at 
Hampton Court. It was at Drury Lane, in 1665, that 
Nell Gwynne, who was a pupil of Hart's, made her 
first appearance as an actress in Dryden's Indian 
Emperor, and it was there, while speaking the epilogue 
to Dryden's Tyrannic Love (1669), that she first capti- 
vated the King. That very night, so the story goes, as 
soon as the curtain fell, he went behind the scenes and 
carried her off. 

The company also included the two beautiful Mar- 
shall sisters; Anne and ** Becky"; Mrs. Davenport, the 
romantic story of whose mock marriage with the Earl 


of Oxford is told by De Grammont ; Pepys' inamorata, 
Mrs.^ Knipp, and many others famous in their day, but 
now forgotten. Colley Gibber, in his " Apology," bears 
witness to the social importance enjoyed by the two 
companies. "Ten of the King's company,*' he writes, 
'* were in the royal household establishment, having each 
ten yards of scarlet cloth, with a proper quantity of lace, 
allowed them for liveries, and in their warrants from the 
Lord Ghamberlain were styled 'Gentlemen of the 
Great Chamber.' Whether the like appointments were 
extended to the Duke s company, I am not certain ; but 
they were both in high estimation with the public, and 
so much the delight and concern of the Court, that they 
were not only supported by royalty being frequently 
present at their public presentations, but by its taking 
cognisance of their private government, insomuch, that 
their particular differences, pretensions, or complaints, 
were generally ended by the King's or Duke's personal 
command or decision. Besides their being thorough 
masters of their art, these actors set forward with two 
critical advantages, which perhaps may never happen 
again in as many ages. The one was their immediate 
opening after so long an interdiction of plays during the 
civil war and the anarchy that had followed it.* What 
eager appetites from so long a fast must those guests 
have had to that high and fresh variety of entertain- 
ments which Shakespeare had prepared for them. . . . 
The other advantage I was speaking of is that before 
the Restoration no actresses were seen upon the English 

* Actresses were styled " Mrs." in the playbills until late in the eighteenth 
century, "Miss" being a term of reproach in those days for any but very 
young girls. 

' Wright {Historia Histrionica) informs us that for several years after 
the Restoration whole sharers in the King's company got ;^i,ooo per 



stage. The characters of women, in former theatres, 
were performed by boys or young men of the most 
effeminate aspect." 

Very brief was the existence of the first Drury Lane 
Theat re, as it^was bufheH down in January, 1672. 
During the rebuilding, the company performed at the 
house in Lincoln's Inn Fields,^ which had been aban- 
doned by the Dukes company in the preceding year 
upon their removal to Dorset Gardens. 

Thr new Drnry Lanr wm dnijjnrd by Sir Christopher 
Wrenj^it cost £/^,ooo, and was opened on March 26th, 
1 ^7 4.., That no attempt, however, was made to rival 
the magnificence of the Duke s House may be gathered 
from a prologue written by Dryden for the occasion, 
which opens thus : — 

'' A plain built house after so long a stay, 
Will send you half unsatisfied away; 
When, fallen from your expected pomp, you find 
A bare convenience only is designed 
You, who each day can theatres behold, 
Like Nero's palace shining all with gold. 
Our mean ungilded stage will scorn, we fear. 
And for the homely room disdain the cheer." 

Gibber gives a very good idea of the arrangement of 
the stage, which, he tells us, projected in a semi-oval 
figure right forward to the front bench of the pit, with 
side wings for the entrances in place of stage boxes, so 
that the whole action of the play was conducted beyond 
the pillars of the proscenium. Playgoers who remember 
^ the stage of the old Hay market Opera House, burned 
down in 1867, will be better able to realise this form than 
those accustomed only to the modern theatres, in which 
the proscenium, on account of our elaborate scenic effects, 

^ See the following chapter. 



has been virtually abolished, thus confining the dramatic 
action strictly within the stage frame. The form, how- 
ever, was considerably altered, even during Gibber s time, 
by the enlargement of the auditorium and the introduc- 
tion of stage boxes ; but he contends for the superiority 
of the old fashion, as the most subtle shades of facial 
expression could be seen, and the softest whispers and 
most delicate intonations of the voice could be heard and 
better appreciated by the spectators. 

"These two excellent companies, the King's and the 
Duke s," again to quote Gibber, ** were both prosperous 
for some years, till their variety of plays began to be 
exhausted.^ Then, of course, the better actors (which 
the King s seems to have been allowed) could not fail of 
drawing the greater audiences. Sir William Davenant, 
therefore, master of the Duke s company, to make head 
against their success, was forced to add spectacle and 
music to action ; and to introduce a new species of plays, 
since called dramatic operas, of which kind were The 
Tempest, Psyche, Circe^ and others, all set off with the 
expensive decorations of scenes and habits, with the best 
voices and dancers. This sensual supply of sight and 
sound coming in to the assistance of the weaker party, it 
was no wonder they should grow too hard for sense and 
simple nature, when it is considered how many more 
people there are that can see and hear, than think and 
judge. So wanton a change of the public taste, there- 

^ We are informed in the Apology that they had a private rule or 
argument, that both houses were so happily tied down to, which was that no 
play acted at one house should ever be attempted at the other. All the 
capital plays of Shakespeare, Fletcher, Ben Jonson, were divided between 
them by the approbation of the Court and their own alternate choice ; so 
that while Hart was famous for Othello, Betterton had no less reputation for 
Hamlet. Geneste, however, doubts that any such absolute rule existed. 

* The first was Davenant's alteration of Shakespeare's play ; the second 
was by Shad well ; the third by Charles Davenant. 


fore, began to fall as heavy upon the King's company as 
their greater excellence in action had before fallen upon 
their competitors. . . . Not to dwell too long upon this 
part of my history, which I have only collected from oral 
tradition, I shall content myself with telling you that 
Mohun and Hart, now grown old, and the younger 
actors, as Goodman, Clark, and others, being impatient 
to get into their parts, and growing intractable, the 
audiences, too, of both houses, then falling off, the 
patentees of each, by the King's advice, which perhaps 
amounted to a command, united their interests and both 
companies into one, exclusive of all others, in the year 
1684.^ This union being so much in favour of the 
Duke's company, was the cause of Hart leaving the 
stage, and Mohun survived not long after." 

The Duke's comedians, it would appear, endeavoured 
to mimic Mohun's manner, when reduced by age and 
infirmity, a baseness which Lord Rochester reproved in 
the following fine verses : — 

" And these are they who durst expose the age 
Of the great wonder of the English stage. 
Whom nattire seem'd to form for your delight, 
And bade him speak as she bade Shakespeare write : 
These blades, indeed, are cripples in their art, 
Mimic the foot, but not the speaking part ; 
Let them the Traitor, or Volpone try. 
Could they rage like CetheguSy or like Cassius die ? " 

* This date is incorrect The union took place in 1682 (November i6th). 
Thomas Killigrew died in the March of the same year, but it seems that 
long previous to his death he had mortgaged the patent to Lacey, Mohun, 
and Hart, who were the veritable directors of the company. The names 
signed to the agreement for the amalgamation are Charles Davenant, 
William Smith, and Betterton on one side, and Charles Hart and Edward 
Kynaston on the other ; Charles, Thomas Killigrew's son, who succeeded 
his £ather as Master of the Revels, was to receive £^ for every performance : 
Hart and Kynaston five shillings per diem, and ten shillings if they acted. 
Harris, Hart, Mohun, and Nell Gwynne left the stage after the union. 


The union of the two companies, however, did not 
much mend matters. Whether it was that the great 
religious and political issues which then, and for years 
afterwards, so engrossed the public mind that they left 
little room there for such diversions, or whether it pro- 
ceeded from apathy about things theatrical, a reaction 
from the eagerness with which they had been enjoyed 
at the Restoration, it would be useless to discuss, but 
for some years previously there had been a great falling 
off in public patronage. Something of this seems to 
have been attributable to the attractions of French and 
Italian companies. In the epilogue written for the King's 
company on their visit to Oxford in 1673, Dryden says: — 

" A French troop first swept all things in its way, 
But those Monsieurs were too quick to stay, 
Yet, to our cost, in that short time, we find 
They left their itch for novelty behind. 
The Italian merry-andrews took their place, 
And quite debauched the stage with lewd grimace : 
Instead of wit and humour, your delight 
Was there to see two hobby-horses fight," etc. 

To such a low ebb had theatrical business fallen in 

. 1690, that Charles Davenant, who had succeeded to 

/ the patent rights on the death of his mother and the 

/ retirement of his brother Alexander, sold his interest to 

a roguish lawyer, named Christopher Rich, for ;^8o. 

It has been previously stated in the account of Dorset 

; Gardens, that that house had been built by a subscrip- 

l tion of gentlemen, who were called "Adventurers"; 

I these, receiving no interest for their investment, how- 

I ever, had ceased to trouble themselves about the affairs 

, of the theatre. Thus did this lawyer obtain absolute 

1 power,^ which he used in the most unworthy manner, 

\ * TThis account differs from that given by Gibber; I have followed 




imposing his own terms upon the actors, who were most 
miserably paid.^ Verbruggen and Powel, both per- 
formers in the first rank, received but £2 a week each ; 
Goodman, an excellent actor, and another named 
Griffin, were reduced to such straits that they had to 
sleep in one bed, and possessed but one shirt between 
them. Gibber tells a laughable story, how one, having 
an assignation with some fair Lindabrides, insisted upon 
wearing the garment out of his turn, and how the dis- 
pute was decided in their garret at the point of the 
sword. On more than one occasion Goodman took to 
the highway to eke out his miserable stipend.* 

When " the Adventurers " applied for dividends. Rich 
evaded their claims, and, when pressed, so wearied out 
the suitors by every species of legal chicanery that at 
length he was left in undisturbed possession of the 
theatre. In 1695, however, the long-enduring actors 
revolted and laid their grievances before the Court; 
after obtaining a personal interview with King William, 
who, doubtless at the intercession of his beloved Mary, 
a great lover of the theatre, treated them with marked 
kindness, they were granted a licence to open the old 
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which, since the tempo- 
rary tenancy of the King's company, it would seem, had 
been reconverted into a tennis court. 

^ For a very detailed and interesting account of the disputes and law- 
suits between Rich and his actors, see some articles, " Actors and Managers 
under Queen Anne," which appeared in the A thenctum d uring August, 1888. 

• Goodman's was an adventurous career. He tad begun life by being 
expelled from Cambridge for de£Eicing a picture of the Duke of Monmouth, 
at that time Chancellor of the University ; he then took to the stage, and 
afterwards to the highway; was concerned in Sir John Fenwick's plot, 
turned King's evidence ; and ended as the lover of Charles the Second's 
old ndstress, the Duchess of Cleveland. He was a famous representative 
of Lee's Alexander, but of late years would never play it unless *'my 
duchess" was present 


All the principal members of the Theatre Royal 
company — Betterton, Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Bracegirdle, etc. 
— seceded, leaving behind only the young and inferior 
actors. ** The great Mr. Congreve," who then stood at 
the head of the dramatic authors of the time, went with 
them, took an •active share in the management, and gave 
to this house his immortal comedy, Love for Love, 
which had been written for Drury Lane. The play, 
with Betterton, who, like another Delaunay, could play 
the gay young lover at sixty, Dogget, Underbill, Sand- 
ford, Mrs. Bracegirdle, Mrs. Barry, and Mrs. Bowman 
in the cast, proved a great success. The publication, 
however, of Jeremy Collier's famous Short View of the 
Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, in 
1697, dealt a terrible blow at what little prosperity the 
theatres still enjoyed, and aroused the old spirit of 
Puritanism, which had been scotched, not killed. Yet 
the castigation was well deserved, for the licentiousness 
of the stage both before and behind the curtain had 
become a monstrous evil. 

The sensation created by the book was enormous, 
scores of pamphlets refuting or defending its views 
were written, and the falling off in the audiences plainly 
showed that its remonstrances had struck home. 

At the beginning of 1699 the Kings Chamberlain 
sent an order to both playhouses calling the attention of 
the actors to the profane and indecent expressions often 
used in plays, and warning them, at their peril, not again 
so to offend ; while in 1 704 the wearing of vizard masks 
by the women was forbidden by an edict of Queen 

During ten years Betterton and his associates per- 
formed at Lincoln's Inn Fields, Congreve, who received 
a share of the profits, continuing to take an active part 


in the management. But the famous actors of the 
Restoration^ both male and female, were long past their 
maturity, and a new generation, destined to be scarcely 
less celebrated — Wilks, Gibber, Barton Booth, Mrs. 
Porter, Mrs. Oldfield — was rising to take their places. 

In 1705, Lincoln's Inn Fields was again deserted, and 
the company went over to Sir John Vanbrugh*s new 
theatre in the Haymarket, of which an account will be 
found in a future chapter. 

In the meantime Rich still continued to wield the 
sceptre of Drury Lane, and to cajole and cheat as before, 
until another eruption in his company took place, and 
the best actors among those who had remained with him 
after the first revolt also seceded to the new house. 
The rivalry between the two companies was bitter and 
unscrupulous ; and in 1699 the Grand Jury of Middlesex, 
which, no doubt, was strongly leavened with Puritanism, 
coupled the two theatres with the Bear Garden as public 
nuisances. And even the friendly testimony of Wright, 
who wrote his Htstoria Histrionica in this year, goes 
far to confirm this judgment. " Whereas of late," 
he writes, **the play-houses are so extremely pestered 
with vizard masks and their trade (occasioning continual 
quarrels and abuses), that many of the more civilized 
part of the town are uneasy in their company, and shun 
the theatre as they would a house of scandal." He adds 
that an audience can hardly be drawn without ** the 
additional invitation of a Signor Fedeli, a Monsieur 
TAbb^, or some such foreign regale expressed at the 
bottom of the bill.*' 

It would be tedious to enter into the various complica- 
tions and disputes in which Rich involved himself with 
his actors and " the Adventurers," so, ** brief let me be." 
In 1709, Sir Thomas Skipworth, who, Gibber tells us. 


owned one-fourth of the united patent, was so disgusted 
with his unremunerative investment that he made 
Colonel Brett a present of it. The new possessor, 
determined to put the gift to some use, and having 
influence at Court, backed up the complaints and 
remonstrances of the actors against the injustice with 
which they were treated so effectually, that in the year 
last named, the Chamberlain silenced the patent by his 
authority, and closed the theatre. 

Soon after Rich had been deprived of his patent 
rights, Mr. William Collier, a member of Parliament, 
with considerable interest at Court, obtained a licence to 
open Drury Lane during the Queen s pleasure, and as 
the old patentee refused to give up possession. Collier 
employed people to force an entrance, but only to find 
that Rich had previously removed everything portable 
in the shape of dresses and properties.^ Collier s specu- 
lation turning out anything but successful, he transferred 
his interest in this theatre to Cibber, Dogget, and 

Before entering upon the history of the famous 
Triumvirate, let me take a retrospective glance, neces- 
sarily very brief, at the actors and literature of the 
house during the first thirty-six years of its existence. 

Upon Mohun, Hart, and others of the Restoration 
period I have already touched ; but there remain those 
whom Cibber has styled ** the best set of English actors 
yet known"; actors whose portraits he has drawn in 
colours so vivid that they can never fade. At the head 
of the list stands Betterton, the friend of Tillotson, the 
mentor of Pope, and the critic of Dryden, of whom 
Steele wrote in The Tatler, on the occasion of his 
funeral, **a man whom I always very much admired, 

^ See Taller^ No. 99, for a most amusing description of ihtfrcuas. 


and from whose actions I had received more strong 
impressions of what is great and noble in human nature 
than from the arguments of the most solemn philo- 
sophers, or the descriptions of the most charming poets 
I have ever read." 

In another place this fine critic has said : " I have 
hardly a notion that any performer of antiquity could 
surpass Mr. Betterton in any of the occasions in which 
he has appeared upon the stage " ; and again he tells us 
that when Betterton played Hamlet, at seventy, in 
manner, gesture, and voice he appeared **a young man 
of great expectation, vivacity, and enterprise." The 
great actor's last appearance upon the stage was as 
Melantius, in The MatcTs Tragedy, on April loth, 17 10. 
Three days afterwards, on account of the violent means 
to which he had resorted to suppress an attack of gout, 
he was dead. 

Kynaston, when he left off playing heroines, became a 
fine actor of heroic tragedy. Another admirable per- 
former was Mountfort, who was murdered by the 
notorious duellist, Lord Mohun. The "great" Mrs, 
Barry was one of the grandest tragedy queens that ever 
trod the stage ; while of the celebrated Mrs. Bracegirdle, 
Cibber says that all the extravagance and frantic passion 
of Lee's Alexander the Great was excusable when she 
played Statira ; that scarcely an audience saw her that 
were not half her lovers, without a suspected favourite 
among them. In an age of general dissoluteness she 
bore an immaculate reputation, and, in spite of the 
sneers and scandal of certain profligate writers of the 
time, seems to have merited it. Mrs. Mountfort was 
called " a miracle of fine acting," and there were many 
others, such as Sandford, Nokes, Leigh, Underbill, 
whose names will be familiar to every reader of The 


Taller, and whose full-length portraits will be found in 
the Apology. 

Equally brilliant during this period were the literary 
annals of Drury Lane. With very few exceptions, all 
the dramatic works of " Glorious John '* were first pro- 
duced upon this stage. And with all their faults, the 
stilted rant of the heroic rhymed tragedies, and the 
licentiousness of the comedies, they contain much of 
Dryden's finest work ; those who are unacquainted with 
his plays can have but a limited appreciation of his 
poetical powers. " Mad Nat Lee," really a man of 
genius, though tainted by insanity, wrote almost entirely 
for the King's Company — The Rival Queens {Alexander 
the Great), the only one of his plays now remembered, 
kept the stage until within living memory ; Southeme 
also, whose Oronooko and Isabella, or The Fatal Mar- 
riage, were favourite tragedies up to our grandfathers* 
days ; Crowne, the author of Sir Courtly Nice, famous 
among the comedies of the eighteenth century, favoured 
Drury Lane ; Sir Charles Sedley's two best comedies, 
Bellamira and The Mulberry Garden, were brought out 
here in 1667 and 1668. It was to this theatre that 
Congreve gave The .Old Bachelor and The Double 
Dealer; Wycherly, his Love in a Wood, The Country 
Wife, and The Plain Dealer; Farquhar, all his best 
pieces except The Beaux Stratagem; Vanbrugh, The 
Relapse and one or two minor works ; Mrs. Centliver, 
The Busy Body and that admirable comedy of intrigue 
The Wonder ; Steele, his four plays ; and with the ex- 
ception of a wretched tragedy called Xerxes, all CoUey 
Cibbers works were first brought out at the Theatre 
Royal ; of these. She Woiid and She Woud Not, The 
Careless Husband, and The Provoked Husband — in 
which he was part author with Vanbrugh — are not only 


works of a very high order of merit, but are compara- 
tively free from the grossness of their predecessors. 

Between the two houses there was a splendid array of 
dramatic genius which could only be overshadowed by 
the Titans of the Shakespearian age. The prevailing 
faults of the writers are licentiousness and the brutal 
cynicism that denies all virtue both to man and woman, 
and not infrequently lapses into the vilest obscenity. 
Jeremy Collier's book did much to modify this evil, and 
Steele and Gibber were the first to bring into vogue a 
purer school of comedy, though the lachrymose senti- 
mentalism of the former, in such comedies as The Lying 
Lover, The Conscious Lovers, The Tender Husband, did 
much to defeat his good intentions. 

Notwithstanding the brilliancy of its histrionic and 
literary record, the retrospect of the stage from the 
Restoration to the end of Queen Anne's reign is any- 
thing but satisfactory ; the national passion for theatrical 
amusements, which had been one of the most marked 
features of the reigns of Elizabeth and the two first 
Stuart kings, burst forth with something of its old 
enthusiasm during the early years of the reign of the 
second Charles, and then sank again into indifference. 

The management known as The Triumvirate was 
one of the most prosperous in the annals of the London 
stage. From a histrionic point of view, these three 
actors were a host in themselves ; Cibber, who was 
never happy out of the society of a lord, who was a 
member of White's Club, the only actor that ever 
obtained that privilege until just recently,^ was an in- 
comparable fop and fine gentleman. Wilks, although 
he had few natural gifts for the stage, yet by study and 

^ I understand that Mr. Bourchier has the privilege of standing at the 
famous bow window. 


application became the finest light comedian of his day ; 
certain contemporaries also highly praise his tragic 
powers ; but these, probably, did not extend beyond 
sound yet conventional acting. Few actors have had 
the privilege to create so many famous characters. It 
was for him Mrs. Centliver wrote Don Felix in The 
Wander^ and Farquhar, Sir Harry Wildair in The 
Constant Couple, Mirabel in The Inconstant, Captain 
Plume in The Recruiting Officer, and in these, perhaps, 
he never had an equal ; while his Prince Hal was 
pronounced to be a performance of the highest ex- 
cellence. Dogget was equally admirable in his own 
peculiar line, and was a consummate artist in dressing 
and make up ; he chiefly shone in old men and characters 
of low life ; he was the original Fondlewife in Congreve s 
Old Bachelor, and Ben in the same authors Love for 
Love. He had a passion for speculating on the Stock 
Exchange, and was so enthusiastic a Whig that in his 
will he left a sum of money for a coat and badge to be 
annually rowed for by Thames watermen on the ist of 
August, to celebrate the accession of the House of Han- 
over. Three individuals of more opposite tastes were 
never linked together ; Dogget, the miserly money- 
grubber; Gibber, the fashionable rake, who squandered 
his money at the gaming-table and in other modish 
follies, while Wilks was entirely absorbed in his profes- 
sion, and was lavish in expenditure only upon stage 
dresses.^ Nevertheless, the union prospered to an extra- 
ordinary degree, for when the common interests of the 
partners were in question they always agreed. 

^ This does not seem to have extended to the ensemble, however. In a 
newspaper of 1723, while criticising the performance, the writer says: 
^ King Duncan has not had a new habit for the last century ; Julius Caesar 
was as ragged as a colt, and his guards were a ragged regiment. Only the 
parts played by. the managers were well dressed." 


" In the twenty years we were our own directors," 
writes Gibber, "we never had a creditor that had 
occasion to come twice for his bill ; every Monday 
morning discharged us of all demands before we took a 
shilling for our own use. And from this time we neither 
asked any actor, nor were desired by them to sign any 
agreement whatsoever. The rate of their respective 
salaries were only entered in our daily pay roll, which 
plain record everyone looked upon as good as city 

Dogget's Whig fanaticism, however, by-and-by brought 
about a change in the government. The rising trage- 
dian of the day, the man who by a consensus of opinion 
was hailed as the successor of Betterton, was Barton 
Booth, and when Addison's Cato was produced in 17 13, 
he created such an impression in the part of the Roman 
Censor that Lord Bolingbroke suggested he should 
be admitted to a share of the patent, and as Booth 
was a pet with the aristocracy, a carriage and six almost 
nightly waiting at the stage door to convey him to 
some noble house, the suggestion was little short of a 

Dogget was so indignant at being controlled by a 
Tory lord that he withdrew in high dudgeon, and ulti- 
mately received ;^6oo for his interest in the patent, 
the exact sum which Booth paid for his admission. 
Booth was a gendeman by birth, and a scholar, and 
these advantages were apparent in his acting; but he 
had not the versatility of either of his great predecessors, 
Hart or Betterton. He was successful only in heavy 
tragedy; he was a fine Othello, and a grand Lear. 
Foremost among the ladies under the triumvirate 
management was famous Ann Oldfield, who was ad- 
vanced from behind the bar of the Mitre Tavern, in 


St. James s Market, kept by her aunt, to be the associate 
of duchesses ; she was the original and inimitable Lady 
Betty Modish of Gibbers Careless Husband, and the 
old actor writes : *' I have often seen her in private 
societies, where women of the best rank might have 
borrowed some part of her behaviour without the least 
diminution of their sense or dignity." She was equally 
great in tragedy, Chetwood says, in his History of the 
Stagey "her piercing, flaming eye, with manner and 
action suiting, used to make me shrink with awe." She 
was the original Jane Shore in Rowe's tragedy of that 
name (1714). The mantle of Mrs. Barry, however, was 
said to have fallen upon the shoulders of Mrs. Porter ; 
Dr. Johnson told Mrs. Siddons that in the vehemence 
of tragic rage he had never seen her equalled ; she was 
the original Alicia in Jane Shore, and Leonora in 
Youngs Revenge ; but her greatest parts were Queen 
Katherine in Henry VHI., and Queen Elizabeth in 
Bankes s Unhappy Favourite. 

At the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the licence 
of Drury Lane, through the influence of Sir Richard 
Steele, had been changed into a patent for his lifetime 
and that of two of his heirs. When, however, in 1 7 1 9, 
Sir Richard quarrelled with his patron, the Duke of 
Newcastle, then Lord Chamberlain, over the Sunder- 
land Peerage Bill, His Grace, to avenge himself, sus- 
pended the patent and closed the theatre. Much was 
said about **the insolence of the actors," and Colley 
Gibber was included in Steele's disgrace. This was 
probably on account of a dispute the future Poet Laureate 
had had with the Master of the Revels,^ Charles Killi- 
grew, the latter claiming a forty-shilling fee for each 

^ This ancient office was finally abolished on the passing of the Licensing 
Act, 1737- 



new play acted, while Gibber argued that the patent 
gave the managers of Drury Lane absolute power in 
such matters. It was only by submission, however, to 
this ancient functionary that the Triumvirate were able 
to obtain a temporary licence to renew their perform- 
ances, and it was not until Sir Robert Walpole returned 
to office in 1721 that the patent rights were restored. 
Though his office was little more than a sinecure, and 
the managers were constantly complaining that he did 
little or nothing to earn the money, Steele was paid 
jCjoo a year as director, as well as in consideration of 
the patent, which was made out in his name. 

During twenty years Drury Lane enjoyed an almost 
uninterrupted prosperity, though the share netted by 
each manager, ;^ 1,500, would not be thought much in 
these days. Wilks died first, then Booth, after which 
Gibber retired. 

After the death and retirement of the Triumvirate, 
dark days again fell upon Drury Lane. In 1732 a 
gentleman named Highmore purchased Gibber's share 
for ;^3,ooo, and shortly afterwards acquired that of 
Mrs. Wilks; but a revolt of the company, stirred up 
by Golley's worthless son,^ obliged him to close the 
house a ruined man, and sell his interest at a great 
sacrifice to Gharles Fleetwood, a young fellow of good 
family, who, together with Giffard, the manager of 
Goodmans Fields, the purchaser of Mrs. Booth's 
moiety, now became proprietor of the patent rights. 
Fleetwood was a spendthrift, a gambler, a man utterly 
devoid of honesty and honour, always deeply in debt 

* Theophilus Gibber, who was drowned in October, 1758, crossing over 
from Ireland, the husband of the great Mrs. Gibber, famous for his im- 
personation of Ancient Pistol, by which name he is frequently referred to by 
his contemporaries ; he was a very disreputable personage. 


and difficulties, and under his direction dramatic art 
sank to a very low level. 

The first gleam of light that illumined this gloomy 
prospect was the appearance of Charles Macklin as 
Shylock. As early as 1725 the young Irish actor had 
essayed a more natural style of acting at Lincoln's Inn 
Fields, and had been discharged for flying in the face 
of tradition. Some years afterwards he was engaged 
by Fleetwood for Drury Lane. Shakespeare's Merchant 
of Venice had not been performed for forty years, a 
spurious version by Lord Lansdowne, called The Jew 
of Venice, in which the actors rendered Shylock as a 
low comedy part, having taken its place. Macklin now 
proposed to revive the original text, and to play Shylock 
as a tragic character. Manager and actors were aghast 
at such a daring proposal, and it was only when business 
was hopelessly bad that, in the season of 1741, Fleet- 
wood consented to the experiment being made. Yet 
even after the play was announced his courage gave 
way, and he begged Macklin to forego his intention. 
But the Irishman was firm. The play was produced on 
January nth, and his impassioned fervour and natural 
acting took the jaded town by storm. A German critic, 
named Lichtenberg, who saw him in after life play the 
part, gives a good idea of the leading features of the 
impersonation. ** Picture to yourself," he writes, "a 
somewhat portly man, with a yellowish, coarse face, 
a nose by no means deficient in length, breadth, or 
thickness, and a mouth, in the cutting of which Nature s 
knife seems to have slipped as far as the ear, on one 
side at least, as it appeared to me. His dress is black 
and long, his trousers likewise long and wide ; his three- 
cornered hat is red. The words he speaks on coming 
on the stage are slow and full of import. * Three 


thousand ducats.' The two tKs and the two s's, especi- 
ally the last after the /, Macklin mouths with such 
unction that one would think he were at once tasting 
the ducats, and all that could be purchased with them. 
Three such words spoken in that situation marks the 
whole character. In the scene, when for the first time 
he misses his daughter, he appears without his hat, with 
his hair standing on end, and in some places a finger's 
length above the crown, as if the wind from the gallows 
had blown it up. Both hands are firmly clenched, and 
all his movements are abrupt and convulsive." So 
terribly malignant was his action and expression in the 
court scene that a shudder went through an audience 
that had been accustomed to roar with laughter at this 
situation. Even George II., who so despised "blays 
and boetry," was appalled by the performance, and 
could not sleep after witnessing it ; while Pope immor- 
talised the actor in the couplet :-^ 

"This is the Jew 
That Shakespeare drew." 

Macklin had given the first blow to the old school 
of acting ; he had aroused a desire for something new, 
fresh, and unconventional ; but he lacked the stability of 
character, the tact, and the genius to carry out the 
revolution he had initiated ; it was reserved for a far 
greater actor, David Garrick, to develop his ideas, 
and give them practical effect. 

Before touching on the career of David Garrick, it 
will be necessary to the proper understanding of his 
connection with Drury Lane to give some account of 
the theatre at which he made his first appearance upon 
the stage. 

In 1729 a Mr. Thomas Odell, who after the passing 



of the Licensing Act was made Deputy Licenser of 
Plays in the Lord Chamberlain's office, converted a silk- 
throwster s shop in Leman Street, Whitechapel, into a 
theatre,^ and engaged as his stage manager an actor 
from Dublin, named Henry Giffard.^ Odell, not under- 
standing anything about theatres, very soon transferred 
his rights in the building to Giffard, who, finding the 
speculation a promising one, to quote Chetwood s words 
{History of the Stage\ " in the year 1733 caused to be 
built (in Ayliffe Street, close by) an entire new, beauti- 
ful, convenient theatre, by the same architect with that 
of Covent Garden : where dramatic pieces were per- 
formed with the utmost elegance and propriety." Strange 
to relate, this remote Temple of Thespis was destined 
not only to be the scene of the d^but of David Garrick, 
but indirectly to bring about a most important piece of 
legislation that shaped the destinies of the stage, and all 
connected with it, for over a century. 

Henry Fielding's Pasquin, and The Historical Register^ 
in which Sir Robert Walpole is so severely satirised and 
ridiculed, is commonly held responsible for having pro- 

^ There was a yet earlier theatre in Goodman's Fields, however, accord- 
ing to the following passage extracted from an old periodical called The 
Observatory which was published about the beginning of the eighteenth 
century. In 1703, it informs its readers, in the character of Tutchin, that 
"' the great playhouse has calved a young one in Goodman's Fields, in the 
passage by the Ship Tavern, betwixt Prescot and Chambers Street'' To 
this information Observaior replies : 'Mt is a very good place in Rosemary 
Lane precinct, and I know no reason why the quality at both ends of the 
town should not have the same diversions. This will be a great ease to the 
ladies of Rag Fair, who are now forced to trudge as far as Lincoln's Inn 
Fields to mix themselves with quality. The mumpers of Knockvargis will 
now have the playhouse come to them who were not able to stump it to the 
other end of the town on their wooden legs ; the Does in Tower Hill Park 
and Rosemary Lane purlieu wiU be foddered nearer home this winter, and 
the sailors will have better entertainment for their loose coin." 

* It was here, in 1730, Fielding's second piece, The Temple Beau^ was 
first produced. 


voked that Minister in 1737 to introduce the famous 
Licensing Act; but it was really the immediate result 
of a play never acted, called The Golden Rump. The 
MS. of this piece, by a hand unknown, was sent to 
Giffard, who, frightened at its audacious abuse of the 
King and his ministers, carried it to Walpole. ' It was 
the last straw, and, after reading it, Sir Robert at once 
brought in a Bill which not only strictly limited the 
metropolitan theatres to two, but established a censor- 
ship over the drama as well. Giffard received ;^ 1,000 
for his loyalty, but it destroyed the legal status of his 

Giffard seems to have had a good company, and 
several of his actors afterwards rose to distinction ; 
notably Walker, the original Captain Macheath in The 
Beggars Opera, and the finest Faulconbridge of which 
there is any tradition ; Yates, afterwards a famous 
member of Garrick's corps dramatique at Drury Lane, 
and the original Sir Oliver Surface ; Bullock, a low 
comedian highly praised; Harry Woodward, then a 
boy; Mrs. Giffard, who subsequently held a leading 
position in the patent houses, and Giffard himself, a 
man of no inconsiderable talent. After the passing of 
the Act, Giffard took his company to Lincoln's Inn 
Fields, which breach of the law, as he rented the house 
from Rich, the manager of Covent Garden, the paten- 
tees seem to have winked at But the speculation 
did not prove a success, and in the following year he 
returned to Goodman s Fields. 

There never was an Act of Parliament so stringently 
worded that its enactments could not in some way be 
evaded ; so Giffard hit upon the expedient of issuing 
tickets at one, two, and three shillings for a concert " at 
the late theatre in Ayliffe Street," and performing a play 


gratis between the two parts. The plays selected were 
those of the regular dramatic repertory,^ yet no one 
seems to have interfered with him, Whitechapel prob- 
ably being considered at that time a part of the metro- 
polis far too remote to come into rivalry with Covent 

At the close of the "thirties," David Garrick, then in 
the wine business with his brother Peter in Durham 
Yard, Adelphi, was haunting the theatres and coffee- 
houses and every place where the actors resorted, chafing 
at the restraint which his friends put upon his inclina- 
tion. One night, when he was behind the scenes at 
Goodman's Fields, Yates, who was playing Harlequin, 
was taken suddenly ill, and young Garrick, who just 
before had made a hit in an amateur performance * got 
up by Cave, the printer, in the old room over St. John's 
Gate, Clerkenwell, was easily prevailed upon to take his 
place. Harlequin, except in Rich's pantomimes, was 
not a mere acrobat in those days ; he was a speaking 
part, an impromptu wit, and Garrick seems to have 
acquitted himself well on the occasion, for soon after- 
wards he accompanied Giffard's company to Ipswich, 
where he played under the name of Lydgate. Deter- 
mined now to be an actor, Garrick, on his return to 
London, tried both the patent houses, and, finding they 
would none of him, made his d6but at the unlicensed 
theatre in Goodman's Fields, October 9th, 1741, as 
Richard HI. 

As usual, the entertainment was called "a concert of 

* It is worth noting that Giffard here reeved The Winter's Tale, for the 
first time for one hundred years. 

^ As a boy of eleven, Garrick had organised a company of juvenile 
players for a performance of The Recruiting Officer^ in which he took the 
part of Kite, and as he grew up his love of amateur acting was frequently 
indulged in at his native city, Lichfield. 


vocal and instrumental music " in two parts, admission 
to which was by tickets at one, two, and three shillings, 
to be obtained at the Fleece Tavern, near the theatre. 
And between the two parts of the concert was presented 
gratis, "an historical play called The Life and Death 
of King Richard III.^' etc., etc. ** The part of King 
Richard by a young gentleman who never appeared on 
any stage." This, as we know, was a playbill fib. 

Having made himself well known as a young man 
about town with very original ideas upon acting, many 
of Garrick's friends journeyed from the west to witness 
his performance. From the first his success was 
assured ; accustomed to the cold and stilted declamation, 
without heart, soul, or impulse, of the time, the effect 
of his fire and passion upon the audience was electrical ; 
the marvellous tent scene, the tiger-like ferocity of the 
last act, and the awful agony of the death scene were 
such as had never been witnessed in living memory. 
The press declared his reception to have, been the 
greatest and most extraordinary ever known on such an 
occasion. After a few nights all fashionable London 
was rushing east to see the new actor. Pope, who had 
sat at Betterton's feet, said magnificently, ** That young 
man never had a rival and never will have a rival " ; 
and William Pitt pronounced him to be the only actor 
in England. 

Nevertheless, " Garrick s easy and familiar yet forcible 
style of delivery at first threw the critics into some 
hesitation concerning the propriety as well as novelty 
of his manner," says Davies ij^ife of Garrick). " They 
had been long accustomed to an elevation of the voice, 
with a sudden mechanical depression of its tones, 
calculated to excite admiration and to entrap applause ; 
to the just modulation of the words, and concurring 


expression of the features from the genuine workings 
of nature they had been strangers, at least for some 
time. Quin, after he had seen Garrick in some im- 
portant character, declared peremptorily that if the 
young fellow was right, he and the rest of the players 
had been wrong." 

Aaron Hill, in his dedication to The Fatal Vision^ 
1 716, animadverts upon the affected, vicious, and un- 
natural* tone of voice so common among actors of the 
time. Antony Aston, in writing of Mrs. Barry, says : 
" Neither she, nor any of the actresses of those times, 
had any tone in their speech, so much lately in use." 
This sing-song delivery was undoubtedly borrowed from 
the Parisian stage, where it was the mode during the 
time of Louis XV. Against these vices of style 
Garrick used the most potent of all weapons, ridicule. 
When playing Bayes in The Rehearsal, he would check 
the actors who spoke naturally and proceed to teach 
them how to deliver the speeches in true theatrical 
manner. For this purpose he selected some of the 
most eminent performers, and assumed the manner and 
deportment of each in his turn. He would begin with 
Delane, who, next to Quin, was the leading tragedian of 
the time. Retiring to the back of the stage, drawing 
his left arm across his heart, resting his right elbow 
upon it, and raising a finger to his nose, he would come 
forward with a stately gait, nodding his head as he 
advanced, and deliver a speech in the exact tones of 
this declamatory tragedian. After that he would pro- 
ceed to imitate other prominent performers of the day. 
He never, however, mimicked Quin, whom he con- 
sidered an excellent actor in parts that suited him — and 
Quin was a duellist who had killed his man. 

At Goodman s Fields, Garrick ran the whole gamut of 


stage characters; he played burlesque as Bayes, he 
appeared z^jeune premier in the parts of Chamont and 
Lothario, as a comedy old man, Fondlewife, in The Old 
Bachelor, as the tragedian in Hamlet, and as a low 
comedian in The Lying Valet. 

The theatre closed on May 27th, 1742, in the midst 
of a most trilliant success, not to open again. The 
patentees of Drury Lane and Covent Garden, thoroughly 
roused by the alarming diminution in their receipts, 
determined to enforce the recently passed Act of Parlia- 
ment ; so with the co-operation of Sir John Bernard, a 
London magistrate, and the original mover of the Act, 
they so far intimidated Garrick and Giffard, that the one 
seems to have been reduced to the necessity of making 
an engagement with Fleetwood, and the other of shut- 
ting up his theatre. 

Odell's old theatre in Leman Street, which after 
Giffard s resignation had been used only for rope- 
dancing and such-like exhibitions, was now reopened as 
a playhouse, but with an unknown company. The last 
time I can find any mention of Goodman s Fields is 
under date 1751. But whether it is Odells or Giffard s 
theatre I cannot determine. The latter seems to have 
been converted into a warehouse, which was burned 
down in 1802. 

Garrick was engaged by Fleetwood at a salary of six 
hundred guineas per annum, the largest sum that had 
ever yet been paid to an actor, Quin receiving only five 
hundred pounds. On the nth of May, 1742, he made 
his first appearance at Drury Lane as Chamont in The 
Orphan. He then performed for six nights at Good- 
man's Fields, returned to Drury Lane on the 28th, 
played Lear, and on the 31st appeared as Richard. 
This was the last time he acted in London that season. 


being engaged for Dublin, where his success was as 
great as in London. He reappeared at Drury Lane 
for the season on October 5th, in the same year, as 

Notwithstanding Fleetwood's unthrifty habits, Drury 
Lane, thanks to Macklin, who was the manager, seems 
to have been tolerably prosperous for a time, but towards 
the close of the year 1743, ^^^ patentee's reckless ex- 
travagance had thrown its affairs into the utmost con- 
fusion ; bailiffs were in possession, actors' salaries were 
unpaid, and they themselves treated with insolence, 
while the stage was disgraced by the most contemptible 
exhibitions from Sadler's Wells. It was a repetition 
of the old story of Christopher Rich. The company 
determined to secede, and waited upon the Lord 
Chamberlain in the hope of obtaining a licence to open 
the Haymarket. This was peremptorily refused, and 
consequently they had no alternative but to return to 
Fleetwood. He consented to take back all the re- 
calcitrants except Macklin, whom he regarded as the 
ringleader. Garrick offered to pay Macklin £6 a week 
out of his own pocket until matters could be smoothed 
over, but the hot-headed Irishman would not listen to 
any compromise, and on the first night of the season, 
December 5th, 1743, with the aid of some friends, 
organised a riot in the theatre. Garrick was hissed and 
not allowed to speak ; pamphlets were issued on both 
sides; and Fleetwood engaged some thirty bruisers, 
headed by the notorious Jack Broughton, the first of the 
champion prize-fighters, to deal with the rioters, who, 
as usual, chiefly congregated in the pit. The most 
disgraceful scenes were almost nightly enacted within 
the theatre, until Macklin was again engaged ; though 
he did not gain this victory without having to make 


submission in a prologue written for the occasion, in 
which he protested — 

" No revolution plots are mine, again 
You see, thank Heaven, the quietest of men." 

But Fleetwood's reign was nearly over ; impaired in 
health and fortune, and hopelessly embarrassed, he had 
mortgaged the patent for ;^3,ooo, and had borrowed 
jQTyOOO on the dresses, scenery, and properties of the 
house, and now the lender was in possession as receiver. 
Fleetwood advertised that the patent was to be sold 
before a Master in Chancery. Two City men determined 
to be the purchasers, provided that James Lacy, who 
was at that time assistant manager to Rich at Covent 
Garden, would undertake the management. Lacy had 
formerly been a manufacturer at Norwich, but through 
misfortunes in business, and a taste for theatricals, he 
took to the stage, played under Rich at Lincoln's Inn 
Fields, and under Fielding at the Haymarket ; he was 
also the builder of Ranelagh Music House, which he 
sold for ;^4,ooo. Lacy was to be a joint partner, but 
the purchasers were to lay down the whole of the money 
required, and to hold Lacy s third in the mortgage until 
his share of the profits enabled him to discharge his 

After some complications, into which I need not enter, 
the matter was settled, and requiring a partner. Lacy 
proposed to David Garrick, who, having money, reputa- 
tion, and ability, was a most desirable one, to join him ; 
by the advice of his friends, Garrick accepted. The new 
patent was granted, and it was stipulated that the two 
partners were to be equal sharers in the profits, except 
that Garrick was to be paid a salary for acting. 

Drury Lane opened under this new management on 


September 15th, 1746. The business of the theatre 
was divided between the partners, Garrick entirely 
superintending the stage. Order, decency, and decorum 
were now strictly enforced ; punctuality was insisted 
upon at rehearsals, at which as much attention was paid 
to the business of the scene as though the audience was 
already present ; he also insisted upon the actors being 
perfect in their parts, and those who did not conform to 
his rules were suspended. Nor were his reforms less 
notable before the curtain ; at the bottom of a bill for 
October, 1 747, was printed the following notice : " As 
the admittance of persons behind the scenes has occa- 
sioned a general complaint on account of the frequent 
interruption in the performance, it is hoped that gentle- 
men won't be offended that no money will be taken 
there for the future." This struck a death-blow at the 
intolerable abuse of allowing spectators to be seated 
on the stage during the performance — a subject upon 
which I shall have more to say in a future chapter — but 
the rule does not seem to have been rigidly enforced, at 
least after a time. (See next chapter.) 

Garrick gathered about him a noble company, includ- 
ing Macklin; Spranger Barry, who at Co vent Garden 
had achieved a success scarcely inferior to his own ; 
Mrs. Pritchard, a grand tragedienne ; Mrs. Gibber, most 
tender and exquisite of Juliets and Ophelias ; delight- 
ful Peg Woffington, most inimitable of high-comedy 
actresses, a Sir Harry Wildair second only to Wilks, 
and a tragic actress as well ; Kitty Clive, unapproachable 
in the broader comedy, etc. 

On March 19th, 1748, Macbeth^ freed from most of 
Davenant's alterations, though still a long way from the 
text, was revived. The music, supposed to be by Locke, 
which had been foisted into Davenant's version, was 



retained ; the singing witches were dressed in the most 
charming costumes, some of white satin and lace, and 
were rouged and powdered, and made to look as attrac- 
tive as possible. Garrick wore a scarlet coat, silk stock- 
ings, and a powdered wig ; and Mrs. Pritchard, as Lady 
Macbeth, was attired as a fashionable lady of the period. 
But their acting was marvellous, especially in the murder 
scene. Garricks dagger soliloquy filled the audience 
with terror. " When," says Murphy {JLife of Garrick)^ 
"he re-entered with the bloody dagger in his hand, he 
was absolutely scared out of his senses ; his distraction 
of mind and agonising horrors were finely contrasted by 
Mrs. Pritchard's seeming apathy, tranquillity, and con- 
fidence. Their looks and actions supplied the place of 
words, and their terrifying whispers made the scene 
awful and tremendous." Yet he failed as Othello, a 
circumstance, perhaps, greatly owing to the smallness 
of his stature. 

In 1750, both Barry and Mrs. Gibber went over to 
Covent Garden, which possessed by far the stronger 
company. This was the season of the famous Romeo 
and Juliet rivalry, which will be referred to in the 
chapter on Covent Garden. Garrick had to fight against 
the opposition house by producing pantomime, though he 
had promised never to resort to it. In a prologue, on the 
opening night, he told the audience that if they would 
not come to see Lear and Hamlet, he must give them 
Harlequin. And he did it so well that Rich trembled 
upon his throne.^ Garrick never disgraced Drury Lane 
by any unworthy production ; some of the tragedies and 
comedies were terribly dull, but they never compromised 
the dignity of the stage. In a piece called The Chinese 
Festival, brought out in 1755, however, the pit and 

^ See the next chapter. 


gallery took such offence at the introduction of foreign 
dancers, that although the performance was by the 
King's command, and His Majesty was present, a riot 
ensued, great damage was done to the theatre, and 
Garrick's house in Southampton Street narrowly escaped 
being sacked. During this season Mrs. Gibber returned. 

The range of characters that Garrick sustained during 
a single season is surprising : Ranger, Hamlet, Archer, 
Romeo, Benedick, Lear, Sir John Brute, Don Felix, 
Bayes, Lothario, Kitely, Lord Chalkstone (a gouty old 
man), Abel Drugger, in the mutilated version of Ben 
Jonson's Alchemist, Leon (Rule a Wife and Have a 
Wife), Leontes, Lord Townley, etc. 

Drury Lane experienced a great loss in 1758, when 
Harry Woodward, most delightful of light comedians, of 
Prince Hals, of Copper Captains, of Petruchios, seceded 
to go into partnership with Barry at Dublin. 

Although Garrick had set his face against allowing 
the audience upon the stage, the nuisance still continued 
on benefit nights; and as it brought a large sum of 
money to the bSndficiaires, it was difficult to abolish. It 
was this consideration that in 1762 induced him to 
enlarge Drury Lane so as to increase the capacity of 
the auditorium, which would then hold ;^335. 

A year later, however, the musical pieces at Covent 
Garden, such as The Beggars Opera and Love in a 
Village, proved so attractive that the nightly takings 
at Drury Lane fell to ;^30, ;^i5, and even £^ a night. 
It was at this time that Garrick took his Continental 
trip, and created as great a sensation in France and 
Italy as he had among his own countrymen. A clever 
young actor named Powell, who made a very decided 
hit, took the place of Roscius until his return.* 

^ His career was a brief one ; he became manager of the Bristol theatre, 
and died in that city. There is a tablet to his memory in the cathedral 


A magnificent reception was accorded the great actor 
when he reappeared on Drury Lane stage on September 
14th, 1765, as Benedick. The King honoured the per- 
formance by his presence, the house was filled to over- 
flowing, and his entrance was hailed by a succession 
of ringing cheers. It was said that a finer polish and 
elegance marked his acting on his return, and all the 
enthusiasm of nearly a quarter of a century back was 
reawakened among the public ; night after night the 
theatre was crammed, and from that time until his 
retirement, Garrick never played to a bad house. 

In the January of the following year, Mrs. Gibber 
died. Barry returned to Drury Lane, after an absence 
of ten yeans, in 1767, and with him Mrs. Dancer, after- 
wards his wife, who, it was said, rivalled even Sarah 
Siddons as Lady Randolph. Mrs. Abington, finest of 
fine ladies, and most incomparable of comediennes, 
Parsons, Baddeley, Dodd, King, and Ross, were now 
members of the company. Mrs. Pritchard retired in 
1768, and Kitty Glive, after forty years' service, during 
the following season. 

Garrick made a curious experiment at the end of 
1772, when he altered Hamlet (Hamlet was one of his 
finest parts); he cut out the plot, in which Laertes 
seconds the King, for the destruction of the Prince, and 
excised Osric and the grave-diggers. Sad to relate, this 
barbarous version of the play kept the stage for several 

Writing to Notes and Queries a few years back, Lieut. - 
Golonel Alexander Fergusson says : — 

" Recently I have had occasion to inspect some old 
family correspondence which had successively passed 
through the hands of Mr. Upcott and Mr. Dawson 
Turner, and came upon what purports to be a weekly 


pay list of Drury Lane Theatre of the year 1773. The 
paper, which is unsigned, is a very large sheet of what 
in the present day W9uld be called ' toned,' but in the 
last generation * whitey-brown/ paper of a very coarse 
description, and is voluminous, seeing there are on it 
some 180 names, representing an expenditure of 
;^522 7^. 6d. a week. 

Drury Lane Theatre Pay List, 13th Febniary, 1773, at jQZ'j is. 3^. 
diem, or ;^S22 7^. 6d. per week. 

Men. jQ s. d. 

James Lacy, Esq. 16 13 o 

David Gamck, Esq. (16130 

( 17 10 o 

Mr. S. Barry and Wife - - - - 50 o o 

Mr. King 800 

Mr. Reddish 800 

Mr. Jefferson^ 800 

Mr. Dame and W. (wife) - - - - 800 

Mr. Dibdin 600 

Mr. Bannister and W. - - - - 6 o o 

Mr. Clinch 2 10 o 


Mrs. Abington 800 

Miss Pope 800 

Miss Young 700 


Mr. Vernon 800 

Mrs. Smith 660 

Miss Venables 660 

Mr. Daigville and W. - - - -600 

Signora Vidini 500 

Mrs. Sutton 500 

Mr. Grimaldi and W. - - - -500 

1 This was an ancestor — great-grandfather, I believe — of Joseph 
Jefferson. Grimaldi was the father of the famous " Joe.'' 


Besides to many performers of less account, there are 
also payments to men dressers, women dressers, pro- 
perties, music, band, £^^ ; soldiers, £^ 4^. ; numberers, 
30^.; house barber, £\ 4^. ; candle woman, 12^.; 
pensioner, Mr. Waldgrave, 105. td.\ and last, but not 
least, the item 'sinking fund/ £21''^ 

On the 29th of December, 1775, The Merchant of 
Venice was performed at Drury Lane; King was the 
Shylock, and Portia was played " by a young lady, being 
her first appearance." The young lady was a country 
actress named Siddons, whom Garrick had brought up 
from Cheltenham on the report of King and " fighting " 
Parson Bates, the editor of The Morning Post. It was 
not her first appearance, however, as she had sustained 
the silent part of Venus in the revival of the Shake- 
spearian Jubilee Procession, which had been transferred 
to the Drury Lane stage after its exhibition at Stratford- 
on-Avon in 1763, and was afterwards frequently revived. 
Mrs. Siddons as Portia proved a terrible fiasco ; her 
voice was weak, her movements were awkward, her 
dress was old, faded, and in bad taste. After appearing 
in one or two other characters, with a similar result, she 
played Lady Anne to Garrick's Richard. Nervousness 
seems to have utterly overpowered her, and the critics 
pronounced the young actress " lamentable." After that, 
full of bitterness and disappointment, she went back to the 
country to gain confidence and mature her latent genius. 

^ In 1765, the expenses of Drury Lane were under ;£70 a night, and the 
company consisted of 160 performers, among whom were names of high 
celebrity. At the head of the company was Garrick at a salary of per night, 
£2 155. 6d,\ Mr. Yates (the famous Othello) and his wife, £^ dr. 8</.; 
Palmer and his wife, £2 ; King, the celebrated Sir Peter Teazle and Lord 
Ogleby, £1 6j. %d. ; Parsons, ts. Zd. ; Mrs. Gibber, £2 10s, ; Mrs. Pritchard, 
£2 6s. Zd,\ Mrs. Glive, £1 15^.; Miss Pope, the best of chambermaids 
13X. 4^; Signor Guestinelli, the chief singer, £1 jx. 4//.; Signor Grimaldi 
and his wife, chief dancer, £\, 


Early in 1776, warned by failing powers, Garrick 
announced his retirement from the stage, and a series of 
farewell performances of his great characters brought 
people from the remotest parts of the kingdom, and even 
from the Continent, to Drury Lane. It was on the loth 
of June, 1776, that, in the character of Don Felix in 
The Wonder, the curtain fell for the last time upon the 
greatest actor — to judge by the universal paean of praise 
that rose from the greatest men of every variety of taste 
and prejudice — that England, or perhaps the world, has 
ever known. There was not a dry eye within the walls 
of the theatre that night ; and, as slowly, and reluctantly 
he passed behind the curtain, a mournful cry of '* Fare- 
well" broke from hundreds of quivering lips like a 
mighty sob. 

On September 21st, 1776, Richard Brinsley Sheridan 
succeeded to the vacant throne in partnership with his 
father-in-law, Thomas Linley, the composer, and Dr. 
Ford. ;^35,ooo was Garrick's price for his share of the 
patent; of this Sheridan took two-fourteenths, Linley 
the same, and Dr. Ford three-fourteenths. Two years 
later Sheridan bought Lacy's share for ;^45,ooo. Moore 
wonders how this impecunious young man, who, at the 
time, had hardly sufificient for his household expenses, 
became poissessed of all these thousands, and succeeding 
biographers have agreed with the poet in regarding it as 
an unsolved mystery. But there is a passage in Lock- 
hart's Life of Scott that throws light upon the puzzle. 
It occurs in Sir Walters diary (January 13th, 1826), just 
after Moore's biography of the great wit was published ; 
Scott is referring to a visit of Charles Mathews (the 
elder), and the various subjects they conversed about 
" Mathews says it is very simple in Tom Moore to 
admire how Sheridan came by the means of paying the 


price of Drury Lane Theatre, when all the world knows 
he never paid it at all ; and that Lacy, who sold it, was 
reduced to want by his breach of faith." As Sheridan 
never paid anyone, it is not likely he would have made 
exception in the case of Garrick and Lacy ; the former 
received the money for Linley's and Ford s share, but 
probably never a farthing from Brinsley, 

The production of the School for Scandal, at the 
commencement of 1777, rendered Sheridan's first season 
a remarkably fortunate one. The famous comedy was 
a prodigious success from the first night, thanks to the 
screen scene, the most superlatively effective situation in 
the whole round of comedy. Mrs. Abington was Lady 
Teazle ; Smith, the prince of fine gentlemen, Charles ; 
Jack Palmer, the plausible, Joseph ; King, a distinguished 
actor of old men. Sir Peter; Yates, equally good in 
tragedy and comedy. Sir Oliver ; Dodd and Parsons, 
two of Lamb's favourites, Sir Benjamin and Crabtree ; 
Baddeley,^ of Twelfth-Night cake memory, Moses ; Miss 
Pope, an admirable actress, Mrs. Candour. It was a 
wonderful cast. 

The attraction of 1773 and the two following seasons 
was Henderson, upon whom it was considered that the 
mantle of Roscius had fallen. 

On October loth, 1782, Mrs. Siddons made her 
rentrie as the heroine of Southerners Isabella, or The 
Fatal Marriage. And with what a difference since her 
last appearance! Her beautiful face and form, the 
exquisite tones of her voice, her deep tenderness, 
seized upon every heart, and her overwhelming agony 

1 Baddeley left a sum of money to provide a cake to be cut in the 
green-room of Drury Lane on every Twelfth Night in memory of him. 
For several years Sir Augustus Harris tturned the celebration into a huge 
reception after the performance, but long since it has gone back to a more 
select gathering. 


thrilled every soul as it had never been thrilled before. 
Men wept, women fell into hysterics, transports of 
applause shook the house ; the excitement and en- 
thusiasm were almost terrible in their intensity, and the 
curtain fell amidst such acclamations as perhaps even 
Garrick had never roused. The salary she was engaged 
at was £$ a week. This very inadequate stipend was, 
of course, quickly increased ; but notwithstanding the 
rush, and houses nightly crowded to the ceiling, at the 
end of the season she was in receipt of only ;^20. Her 
benefit, however, realised a large sum. 

It was not until the second season, February 2nd, 
1784, that she played the part she is now best remem- 
bered by. Lady Macbeth ; in this she had memories of 
Mrs. Pritchard to struggle against, and old playgoers 
considered her inferior to Garrick s great actress in the 
part. So nervous was Sheridan regarding such com- 
parisons that he begged her, on the first night, even at 
the last moment, to cut out, in the sleep-walking scene, 
the business of washing her hands in pantomime, which 
had never been done before, Mrs. Pritchard holding the 
lamp throughout the scene. But she was firm against 
his entreaties, and was justified by the result. 

On September 30th, 1783, John Philip Kemble made 
his first appearance at Drury Lane in the character of 
Hamlet ; he created considerable attention, but no 
enthusiasm. Two years later, inimitable Dora Jordan 
came up from Yorkshire and opened here as Peggy in 
The Country Girl, to add a new joy to London life. 
How she could act in serious parts, in Viola, Charles 
Lamb has described in one of the most exquisite 
passages of The Essays of Elia. 

In the meantime. Sir Christopher Wren s theatre had 
fallen into such decay that in 1791 it was found necessary 



to pull it down. And on June the 4th the grand old 
house that had stood in six reigns, which had witnessed 
the triumphs of Hart, Mohun, Betterton, Booth, Garrick, 
of Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. 
Siddons, Mrs. Bracegirdle, Mrs. Oldfield, Mrs. Woffing- 
ton, Mrs. Abington, and many other peerless actors and 
actresses, closed its doors for ever, and next day was 
handed over to pickaxe and shovel. 

The new Drury Lane was opened on March 12th, 
1794, with, it being the first day of Lent, a selection 
from Handel's oratorios and the Coronation March ; the 
stage was set to resemble a Gothic cathedral. The 
old theatre had held 2,000 people, the new accommo- 
dated 3,611, or nearly 600 more than the present 
building. The numbers were as follows : the pit, 800 ; 
the boxes, 1,828 ; the two-shilling gallery, 675 ; the one- 
shilling, 308; money, ;^i,77i. The dimensions of the 
house were: the opening of the curtain, 43 feet; height, 
38 feet ; height from pit to ceiling, 56 feet. 

The season for dramatic performances did not com- 
mence until April 21st, when a grand revival of Macbeth 
was presented, with Kemble and Mrs. Siddons in the 
leading r61es ; Charles Kemble making his first appear- 
ance in London as Malcolm. Some modern effects 
were anticipated by arranging that the ghost of Banquo 
should be invisible, while the gorgeous setting of the 
banquet scene was the talk of the town, and for the first 
time since the days oft Dorset Garden we hear rather 
more of the scenery than of- the acting. An epilogue, 
written by George Colman, was spoken by Miss Farren, 
in which defiance was hurled at the Fire Fiend : — 

" The very ravages of fire we scout, 
For we have wherewithal to put it out ; 
In ample reservoirs our firm reliance 
When streams set conflagration at defiance." 


The curtain was then raised to show the stage turned 
into a vast lake, upon which a man was rowing a boat, 
while a cascade tumbled down at the back ; upon this 
an iron curtain was lowered, and tapped with a hammer 
to show that there was no deception ; it was declared to 
be an impossibility that fire could ever obtain a mastery 
over such elaborate precautions, indeed, it was sarcastic- 
ally remarked that a little fire would do good both to 
actors and dramatists, though it could not singe a feather 
among the audience. And yet within fifteen years this 
boasted flame-proof building was burned to the ground. 

Sheridan, unfortunately for the success of the theatre, 
was again the manager. Neither the reign of Christo- 
pher Rich nor Charles Fleetwood was more disgraceful 
to the stage than that of the brilliant wit upon whose 
self-entailed ruin so much false sentiment has been shed 
by partial biographers. Neither actors, tradespeople, 
nor workpeople were paid ; even Kemble and his sister 
were more than once driven by their necessities to the 
sordid resource of refusing to go on the stage until 
arrears of salary were settled. Such strikes were of 
every night occurrence among other members of the 
company, antf, their just demands sometimes being 
refused, incompetent persons were put into their parts. 
Even the poorest employes were not paid their wages ; 
Fanny Kemble, in her " Records," tells us how, on 
Saturday morning, the workpeople would assail him 
with, '* For God s sake, Mr. Sheridan, pay us our 
salaries. For Heaven's sake let us have something 
this week " ; how he would faithfully promise that their 
wants should be attended to, and then, after emptying 
the treasury of the week's receipts, would slip out of the 
theatre by another door, and leave them penniless. 
Neither did he expend any money upon the theatrical 


stock ; the wardrobe for the ordinary dramatic ripertoire 
was little better than a collection of rags, and the 
scenery was dingy and dilapidated. "He never paid 
the slightest attention to the economy of the establish- 
ment," says one of his biographers, Dr. Watkins, "nor 
took any pains to uphold its credit ; his talents were 
excited only to exhaust the resources of the theatre for 
his private purposes." Failure was the natural con- 
sequence of such a state of affairs. 

King had been Sheridan's first manager, but from 
1788 to 1796 John Kemble filled that most unthankful 
post. Besides being out of pocket a large sum for 
arrears of salary, Kemble was the scapegoat who had to 
bear the brunt of infuriated creditors, and was once 
arrested for a debt of the unprincipled lessee for which 
he had made himself responsible. Worn out and dis- 
gusted at last, he resigned his office to Wroughton, 
though he continued to be a member of the company. 
In the year 1800, however, Sheridan, who had enormous 
influence over the great tragedian, as indeed he had 
over everyone upon whom he cared to exercise his 
irresistible fascination, again prevailed upon Kemble to 
be his lieutenant, promising him a share*of the profits. 
But finding that he had no intention of fulfilling the 
bargain, John Philip, in 1802, finally severed his connec- 
tion with Drury Lane, and purchased a sixth of the 
Covent Garden patent. 

The records of Kemble's management are little more 
than a list of Shakespearian and other revivals of the 
legitimate drama, interspersed with ponderous new plays 
such as The Iron Chesty 1796, in which he made such a 
deadly fiasco. The most notable of these latter produc- 
tions was Sheridan's translation of Kotzebue's Pizarro^ 
1799. Stuffed with patriotic speeches, at a time when 


England was at fever heat, with the two Kembles in 
picturesque parts, and Mrs. Siddons and Mrs. Jordan as 
the two heroines, it drew crowded houses. 

With the new century came a new species of play, 
borrowed from the German, a corollary to Mrs. 
Radcliffe's and Monk Lewis's romances. The Castle 
Spectre of the latter writer had been the success of 1798. 
Holcroft's A Tale of Mystery y, brought out at Covent 
Garden in 1802, is credited with being the first of the 
melodramas. These plays were carried on partly in 
dialogue, partly in dumbshow, the whole action to the ac- 
companiment of music. Sheridan, finding that these com- 
positions drew more money than the legitimate, deluged 
the stage with them. Now began the reign of grand 
processions, costly dresses, real elephants, performing 
dogs, and real water. Covent Garden, in self-defence, 
was obliged to follow suit, and such pieces as The 
Miller and his Men, The Dog of Montargis^ The Dumb 
Maid of Genoa, with a sword combat, in which every 
blow had to keep time to music, The Bleeding Nun of 
Lindenbergy Tintour the Tartar, The Forty Thieves ^ 
Aladdin — the Arabian Nights stories were played 
seriously in those days — and scores of others, entirely 
overshadowed the legitimate. 

On the 24th of February, 1809, Drury Lane was 
burned down for the second time in its history, and 
into such low esteem had the National Theatre fallen 
that, but for Samuel Whitbread, the principal share- 
holder, it would not have been rebuilt. Through his 
indefatigable exertions, however, ;^400,ooo was raised 
by subscription,^ and after a long delay the new house 
was commenced. 

1 £6oy00o of this enormous sum went in securing patent rights. The 
second Drury Lane patent, which, as I have previously explained, dated 


Sheridan's application for the management was refused 
by the directors, chiefly through the firmness of Whit- 
bread, and the fourth and present Theatre Royal, Drury 
Lane, built by Holland after the model, it is said, of the 
great theatre at ^Bordeaux, was opened on October 
loth, 181 2, under the direction of Samuel, James Arnold, 
a dramatic author, and first manager of the Lyceum, 
assisted by a committee of lords and gentlemen, among 
whom were the Earls of Dudley and Essex, Lord 
Byron, Samuel Whitbread, Douglas Kinnaird, etc. 

The new house was inaugurated with a great flourish 
of trumpets and beating of drums. In the previous 
August the committee had advertised a free and open 
competition for an address to be spoken on the opening 
night ; an invitation to which, however doubtful it might 
have been for the interests of the theatre, posterity is 
indebted for those \ri\m\l2kAt,jetiX(r esprit^ "the Rejected 
Addresses " of James and Horace Smith. As not one 
of the hundred and twelve sent in was considered worthy 

only from 17 19, was granted for a term of years, and was afterwards re- 
newed from time to time. The rights of both the original patents granted 
to Killigrew and Davenant had been acquired by Christopher Rich, and by 
him transmitted to his son John, who, while manager of Covent Garden, 
according to the tolerably well - authenticated story, bought the actual 
document from a Mr. Clarke, to whom, most probably, thriftless, impecunious 
Charles Killigrew had pawned it, for / 100 and a hogshead of claret When 
the new theatre was being erected, inquiries began to be made about this 
patent, of which nothing had been heard for about a century, and it was 
then discovered to be in the possession of the Covent Garden patentees, to 
whom ;£2o,ooo was paid for its redemption ; Sheridan received a second 
;^20,ooo, while an equal sum was paid to the Linley and other interests in 
the Drury Lane patent created in 1776. On the evening of the theatre 
a new term of twenty-five years was granted ; this expired during Bunn's 
management in 1837, and, as he made no application for a renewal, he was 
questioned by the Lord Chamberlain as to the authority upon which he was 
keeping the house open ; he then produced the veritable patent of Killigrew, 
together with a receipt for ;£9,56i 19J. ^d, from the proprietor of Covent 
Garden, dated December 17th, 1813, which was the last instalment of the 
purchase money. 


of the occasion, Lord Byron was prevailed upon to 
write the address, which was delivered by EUiston. 
The decision, however, did not pass without a protest 
upon the part of the rejected, for on the second or third 
night a Dr. Busby and his son addressed the audience 
from the boxes upon the supposed injustice with which 
their effusions had been treated, both having sent in a 
poem ; the Doctor offered to recite his, and to appeal to 
the judgment of the audience whether it was not better 
than Lord Byron's. 

Although the new Drury Lane company included 
Elliston, Dowton, Robert Palmer, Wewitzer, the last of 
the Garrick Company,^ Raymond, Rae, Wroughton, 
Jack Bannister, Wrench, Mrs. Glover, Mrs. Edwin, 
Miss Duncan, Miss Kelly, Miss Mellon, it was inferior 
as a whole to that of Covent Garden, which could boast 
of John and Charles Kemble, Young, Emery, Liston, 
Sally Booth. Neither was the amateur management 
particularly successful ; the first season closed with a 
heavy loss, and the second commenced under very 
depressing circumstances. 

Several new actors appeared, but all failed, until, on 
the 26th of January, 18 14, an obscure country tragedian, 
named Edmund Kean, who had been engaged in sheer 
.desperation, and brought up from Exeter, a very model 
of a strolling player, shabby, almost shoeless, whom 
the mediocrities treated at rehearsal with unconcealed 
contempt, made his appearance here as Shylock to an 
indifferent and half-filled house. But when the curtain 
fell upon the fourth act it was upon such a burst of 
enthusiasm as had not been heard since the night on 

1 Wewitzer, the last surviving man of the Garrick Company, lived until 
1 83 1. But Mrs. John Kemble, Brereton's widow, n^e Priscilla Hopkins, 
survived until 1845, dying at the age of ninety. 



which Mrs. Siddons first played Isabella. The next day 
all London was ringing with the fame of the new actor. 
Richard was his next impersonation. **Just returned 
from seeing Kean in Richard," wrote Byron in his 
diary. ** By Jove, he is a soul ! Life, nature, truth, 
without exaggeration or diminution." Coleridge said it 
was reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning. The 
receipts rose from ;^ioo to ;^6oo nightly. After his 
third appearance, Whitbread raised his salary from 
£^ to ^20. One week the committee presented him 
with ;^ioo, the next with ;^500, while splendid presents 
flowed in upon him from all sides ; society fawned upon 
him, flattered him, courted him, and made him the idol 
of the hour. Hamlet, Othello, a stupendous perform- 
ance, I ago, Luke in Riches ^ followed in quick suc- 

For the sixty-eight nights during which Kean per- 
formed, the receipts were ;^38,942, while the total 
for the season was ;^68,329, yet the theatre closed 
with a loss to the directors of ;^20,ooo. It is said that 
disappointment at the failure of the speculation which 
he had done so much to promote so preyed upon 
Whitbread's mind, that it was the immediate cause 
of his terrible suicide in 181 5. 

During the second season, Kean appeared as Macbeth, 
but his great hits were Zanga, in The Revenge^ and Sir 
Giles Overreach. " He looks like Michael Angelo s 
* Rebellious Angel ' ! " exclaimed Southey, appalled by 
the awful expression of his features in the great scene of 
Zanga. **Like the Arch-fiend himself!" exclaimed 
another. A writer in BlackwoocCs wrote that his last 
scene of Sir Giles was **the most terrific exhibition of 
human passions that had been witnessed on the modern 
stage." Maturin s Bertram^ and Sir Edward Mortimer 


in The Iron Chesty in which Kemble had failed, were 
among his greatest triumphs. 

Rivals sprang up to contest the bays with him, among 
them Junius Brutus Booth, the father of Edwin, who 
had played Richard at Covent Garden in imitation of 
Kean, and was thought by some to be his equal. So 
the Drury Lane management engaged Booth to play 
I ago to their Othello. It was one of the most memor- 
able contests that even that stage ever witnessed. 
Never did Kean act as he acted on that night, " He 
glared anon upon the now diminutive lago," wrote 
Barry Cornwall, **he seized and tossed him aside with 
irresistible vehemence. The fury and whirlwind of the 
passions seemed to have endowed him with supernatural 
strength. His eyes were glittering and bloodshot, his 
veins were swollen, and his whole figure restless and 
violent." He played Abel Drugger, Garrick's old part, 
and Tom Tug in The Waterman^ and sang the songs 
— he had a very sweet voice. One of his greatest 
parts was Lear, which he acted from the text People 
thought that his wonderful effects were spontaneous. 
On the contrary, "he studied and slaved beyond any 
actor I ever knew," said a contemporary. He would 
shut himself up in his room all day to rehearse the pro- 
duction of a single line. 

During six years Kean was the Atlas that supported 
the burden of the huge theatre. Rivals rose, but all 
paled before the splendour of his overwhelming genius. 

Within a few years "the committee of noblemen 
and gentlemen," having lost ;^8o,ooo since the opening 
of the new theatre, grew tired of so unprofitable 
a burden, and in 1819 Drury Lane passed into the 
hands of that eccentric genius whom Lamb has so 
magnificently apostrophised in one of his essays, Robert 


William EUiston. Elliston had been before the London 
public sipce 1796; In 1804 he had made a marked 
success at Old Drury as the Duke Aranza in Tobin's 
Honeymoon^ and he had already been a manager at the 
Olympic, Elliston was one of the finest representatives 
of high comedy the stage has ever known, and in his 
best days would probably have carried the palm away 
even from Charles Kemble. The terms under which 
he undertook the tremendous responsibilities of "the 
National Theatre" were simply ruinous. The rental was 
to be ;^ 1 0,200 per annum, exclusive of all rates; yet there 
were 635 perpetual free admissions, or renters tickets, 
another creation of Sheridan's ; and, as if this were not 
eflough, the new lessee engaged, before the end of the 
second season, to spend ;^6,ooo in beautifying the 
building. He opened with a grand company, Kean, 
Pope, Holland, Harley, Oxberry, Dowton, Munden, 
Mrs. W. West, Mrs. Egerton, Mrs. Glover, Miss Kelly, 
Mrs. Orger, etc., and his success was considerable. 
One of EUiston's earliest and greatest hits, however, 
was a wretched melodrama, called The Cataract of the 
Ganges, in which a real waterfall drew more money than 
all the histrionic talent. 

Elliston magnificendy redeemed his bond by spending, 
in 1822, ;^22,ooo upon the building; the interior was 
entirely remodelled by Beazley, the ceiling was lowered 
fourteen feet, and the boxes were brought forward five 
feet, thus somewhat diminishing the capacity of the 
auditorium, and leaving it much as it was until the recent 
alterations.^ When Kean came back from his American 

* The portico in Catherine Street, and colonnade in Little Russell Street, 
were not added until 1831. Drury Lane underwent extensive renovation in 
1866. The present dimensions of the building are 131 feet from north to 
south, and 237 feet from east to west ; beyond this is a space of 93 feet 
devoted to scene rooms, making the entire length 330 feet 


tour, in 1822, he returned to Drury Lane. ElHston 
celebrated his arrival by a street procession, and the 
great actor was escorted to the stage door by a troop of 
horsemen — ^bruisers, jockeys, prize-fighters, publicans — 
followed up by a rabble rout that gathered through the 
streets ; EUiston in a carriage and four and six outriders, 
and Kean's coach drawn by four negroes. Fancy Sir 
Henry Irving going to the theatre in that style! 

The great event of the engagement was another contest, 
this time between Kean and Charles Young, in which 
they acted Othello and I ago, Jaffier and Pierre, and other 
parts in now forgotten plays. The excitement and enthu- 
siasm of the audiences were boundless. A critic in The 
Examiner wrote that it was impossible to convey an idfea 
of those performances to persons who had not witnessed 
them. " For it is not in human nature to reach the pitch 
of excellence attained by Mr. Kean on the two occasions, 
without some extraordinary stimulus." 

Though the public support was generous, it could not 
keep pace with the gigantic expenditure, nor, it must be 
added, with the thriftless personal extravagance of the 
manager, and, after struggling with debt and difficulties 
for some time, EUiston, in 1826, was a bankrupt 

The shareholders treated him with heartless and 
impolitic severity ; during his seven years' lesseeship he 
had spent ;^30,ooo in improving their property, and had 
paid them ;^66,ooo in rent; to them ;^5,500 was the 
total of his liabilities, and for this debt he offered ample 
security ; but they would have nothing but their bond, 
and closed the doors against him. 

A notable first appearance in the last year of EUiston's 
management was that of Ellen Tree, who commenced 
her first London engagement here in September, 1826, 
as Donna Violante in The Wonder with pronounced 


success.^ With the exception of one bright interval 
under Macready, the sun of Drury Lane set with EUiston. 

EUiston was succeeded by Stephen Price, who was 
satirically nicknamed the American ** Chesterfield." It 
was under his management that Charles Kean made his 
d6but October ist, 1827, as young Norval in Douglas. 
Charles was not seventeen at the time, and left Eton to 
take to the stage for his own and his mother's support, 
his father, through dissipation and extravagance, having 
fallen into embarrassments from which he never ex- 
tricated himself. There was a crowded house, and the 
youth was warmly received, but he made no mark. He 
played several other parts, and the audience dwindled 
nightly. At Christmas in the following year he returned 
as Romeo, and met with only a cold reception. Mr. 
Price took the theatre at a rental of ;^i 0,600, which he 
did not pay, and at the end of his fourth season the 
shareholders had not only to lose their money, but to pay 
him to give up possession. 

There was, however, at least one creditable act con- 
nected with Price s management ; when, owing to the 
difficulties at Covent Garden, Charles Kemble could not 
give Joey Grimaldi a farewell benefit at the house with 
which his name had been so long associated. Price 
offered him the use of Drury Lane. In 181 5, Grimaldi 
had a serious illness, and from that time he never knew 
a single day's health. At length his sufferings became 
so. acute, that men were obliged to be kept waiting at 

* Three years previously she had appeared as Olivia in Twelfth Nighty 
for her sister Maria's benefit at Covent Garden, but that was only tentative. 
She remained at Drury Lane for three years, after which she transferred her 
services to the rival house, where she played Romeo to Fanny Kemble's 
Juliet She was the original Ion (at the Haymarket) in Sergeant Talfourd's 
tragedy of that name, and was the original representative of several of 
Sheridan Knowles's heroines— Mariana in The Wife^ the Queen in the Rose 
of Arragon^ the Countess in Love, 


the side scenes to catch him in their arms when he came 
staggering and exhausted off the stage ; his sinews were 
gathered up into knots by the cramp that followed their 
every exertion ; and during the waits, his limbs had to 
be chafed to enable him to go on with the performance. 
He had taken a farewell benefit at Sadler s Wells in 
March, 1828, and on June 27th, in the same year, he 
made his last public appearance at Drury Lane. The 
scene was very affecting ; he was to act the clown in one 
scene of Harlequin Hoax, and speak a farewell address. 
But what a difference from the old days,^ when he used 
to come bounding upon the stage full of life and vigour, 
amidst a roar of delight from the expectant audience ! 
The roar of applause was more enthusiastic than ever ; 
but instead of the sprightly Joey of old, a prematurely 
aged man, unable to stand, was carried before the foot- 
lights on a chair; yet the old humour sparkled as 
brilliantly as ever ; his old jokes, his old songs never 
provoked louder shouts of laughter than on the last 
occasion he was ever to utter them. 

"It is four years," he said in his farewell speech, 
" since I jumped my last jump, filched my last oyster, 
and boiled my last sausage. To-night has seen me 
assume the motley for a short time ; it clung to my skin 
as I took it off, and the old cap and bells rang mourn- 
fully as I quitted them for ever." When the last word 
was spoken Harley led him, utterly overcome, off the 
stage amidst a tremendous sympathetic demonstration, 
and when he quitted the theatre, a huge crowd followed 
his vehicle, cheering him the whole way home to Penton- 
ville. He realised close upon ;^6oo by this benefit, and 
the Drury Lane fund allowed him ;^ioo a year for the 
remainder of his life. 

* See " Sadler's Wells.'' 


Alexander Lee, musical composer and publisher, was 
the next tenant of the National Theatre. There is an 
entry in Macready's Diary to the effect that on July 31st, 
1830, he entered into an engagement with Mr. A. Lee 
for three years at Drury Lane ; ;^30 per week the first 
year and £^0 the second and third, with a half clear 
benefit each year. Lee had no money, but presently 
found a backer in Captain Polhill, the member for Bed- 
ford. In consequence of constant quarrels between Mrs. 
Waylett, whom Lee had married, and an actress 
favoured by the Captain, Lee s reign came quickly to an 
end, and Polhill appointed Bunn, *' the poet Bunn " of 
Punchy who had been EUiston's stage-manager in 1823, 
in his place. Captain Polhill retired from the manage- 
ment in 1834, with a loss of ;^50,ooo. And from that 
time until 1839, Bunn was sole lessee. 

There was not a style of entertainment that Bunn did 
not essay; he began with the legitimate drama, and 
descended, in 1839, to tight-rope dancers and Van 
Amburg, the lion tamer. It must be added in extenua- 
tion, however, that he received more royal patronage 
through the ** Lion King " than for any other form of 
entertainment he presented. Queen Victoria commanding 
two special performances. Opera, however, was the 
staple fare ; he gave English versions of Weber s and 
Rossini's operas, mutilated, it is true, but competently 
rendered ; he treated his patrons to German opera, and 
JuUien's Promenade Concerts, varied by tableaux vivants, 
and Macready, Phelps, and Mrs. Warner in tragedy. 
He boasts in his book. The Stage, that nearly every 
great actor of the day appeared under his management, 
as well as every great European singer and dancer. Yet 
Alfred Bunn was simply a showman, and he made Drury 
Lane only a big booth. But he could not make it pay. 


and at the end of five years had to retire thousands in 

An actor named Hammond, at that time manager of 
the Strand Theatre, where we shall meet him again, was 
rash enough to be tempted by a rental reduced to 
;^5,ooo a year. But although he engaged Macready, 
Elton, Phelps, and Mrs. Warner, he had to close early 
in March. 

JuUien and Eliason filled out the remainder of the 
season with their concerts. 

At Christmas, 1841, Macready, after failing at Covent 
Garden, was again tempted to try his fortune in manage- 
ment. He produced The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 
poor Gerald Griffin's Gisippus, Byron s Marino Faliero, 
Handel's Acis and Galatea, but the last only was a 
monetary success. Through an obstinate policy, or 
rather over-punctilious regard for his public pledges, he 
would not permit it to be sun^ more than three times a 
week, and thus frittered away its attraction. Yet we 
cannot but admire the fine artistic sense and proud 
probity of the man, who preferred losing his money to 
breaking faith with his supporters and countenancing 
those long runs which are death to art. In the company 
were James Anderson, Samuel Phelps, Keeley, Harley, 
Elton, Mrs. Nisbett, Mrs. Stirling, Mrs. Keeley, Miss 
Priscilla Horton. 

Macready, in his opening bill, announced that the 
grand saloon attached to the boxes should be protected 
" from all improper intrusion." With a determined hand 
he swept away those shameful abuses which had hitherto 
disgraced the auditorium of our theatres, and introduced 
an order and decorum until then unknown. 

The second season opened with a performance of As 
You Like It, and a cast which probably was never 


equalled. Mrs. Nisbett, Rosalind ; Mrs. Stirling, Celia ; 
Mrs. Keeley, Audrey; Macready, Jacques; Anderson, 
Orlando ; Phelps, Adam ; Graham, Oliver ; Keeley, 
Touchstone ; Compton, William ; Ryder, the Banished 
Duke — his first appearance in London ; George Bennett, 
Duke Frederick ; Elton, the First Lord, etc. A splendid 
revival of King John followed with an equally fine 
cast, Helen Faucit as Constance; Westland Marston's 
Patriciate s Daughter and Browning's The Blot on the 
SctUcheon were the novelties ; and there was a revival 
of Dryden s King Arthur, with Purcell's famous music, 
all before Christmas. 

In connection with King Arthur, James Anderson, in 
his memoirs, tells a remarkable story. During the 
rehearsals Tom Cooke, the musical director, was in 
despair of being able to find anyone who could do 
justice to the solos in Come, if you dare! Anderson, 
who had noticed the fine voice of a young chorus singer 
named Sims Reeves, suggested him as a solution of the 
difficulty, and was laughed at by Cooke for the proposal. 
Macready, however, impressed by Anderson's persis- 
tency, desired Cooke to try the young man alone. 

"In less than twenty minutes Cooke returned in 
raptures of delight Rushing up to me, he embraced 
me again and again, swearing, in his odd way, that we 
must change places — / must conduct the orchestra, and 
he take my place on the stage. The result was delight- 
ful; Mr. Reeves made a great hit, and was nightly 
encored in his magnificent solos. Shortly after this he 
went to Italy." 

Finding the "legitimate" unprofitable, Macready, in 
April, 1843, engaged Clara Novello, and produced 
Sappho, a grand opera; Milton s Comus followed, and 
a new play by Knowles. But it was all in vain ; the 



enormous rental, the cruel burden of renter s tickets, 
which half filled the best seats on the best nights, and 
indifferent public support, sent the unfortunate manager 
adrift, wrecked in health and fortune. 

This was the last season in which the patent rights 
were enjoyed by the two great theatres ; the new 
Licensing Act was passed in that year.^ It was the end 
of the ancien rdgitne, and from that time a new order of 
things dramatic obtained. 

After Macready, Bunn again. In 1844 he engaged 
Charles Kean, who since his d^but seventeen years 
before had been gaining fame and fortune, for a series 
of performances, which almost rivalled the successes 
of the father; but operas, ballets, extravaganzas, and 
pantomimes were Bunn's principal productions; in- 
deed, Drury Lane was for years an opera-house 
rather than a theatre. Here were produced Balfe's 
Bohemian Girl, for which Bunn wrote the idiotic libretto. 
The Maid of Athens, and many other of his works ; 
Benedict's Brides of Venice; Wallace's Maritana, etc., 
sung by Miss Romer, Madame Anna Thillon, Miss 
Rainforth, Borrani, Stretton, Weiss, and Sims Reeves, 
who was engaged in 1847-8. 

In the latter year the Cirque National, from the 
Champs Elys^es, performed at Drury Lane, and on 
June 14th (1848), a French company appeared in a 
version of Monte Cristo which extended over two 
nights. A serious riot was the consequence of this new 
departure in stage art, and the circus returned, to be 
succeeded by more opera. After which Bunn had to 
retire to Boulogne, and depend upon a friend for mere 

^ See the chapter on the Olympic for a detailed account of the effects of 
this revolutionary measure. 


On December 26th, 1849, James Anderson undertook 
the management, with a respectable but by no means 
brilliant company. His most notable productions were 
Ingomar — no man ever played the part as Anderson did 
— ^and Azael, the latter splendidly mounted — the Temple 
o/Isis was a wonderful set. But neither the legitimate 
nor the spectacular would draw, and Anderson retired, a 
ruined man, in the summer of the great Exhibition year. 
He was immediately followed by an American circus, 
that cleared thousands. Such was the taste of the day. 

Old Drury was the scene of another notable " Fare- 
well" on February 26th, 1851, when Macready made his 
last appearance upon the stage in the character of 
Macbeth. Macready had the bad taste to despise — or 
pretend to despise — the profession to which he owed 
fortune, position, reputation, and cast no "longing, 
lingering glance" behind, such as had marked the farewell 
of Garrick, of Kemble, of Siddons, who passionately 
loved their art. On that morning he wrote^ in his 
Diary : ** My first thought when I awoke was that this 
day was to be the close of my professional life. I 
meditated on it, and not one feeling of regret inter- 
mingled with the placid satisfaction accompanying my 
performance of every act, needfully preparative to the 
coming event." This is not the utterance of an artist, 
but of a mere workman, and after reading it I can never 
believe that Macready was more than a very fine conven- 
tional actor, one who, had he been gifted with the divine 
afflatus, could not have been so destitute of enthusiasm, 
of sentiment, of soul. He was the product and the re- 
presentative of a sordidly inartistic age. In writing of 
the night he says : ** To attempt any description of the 
house, of the wild enthusiasm of applause, every litde 
portion of the vast assembly in motion, the prolongation, 


the deafening cheers would be useless." The object of 
the ovation was the person least moved by it A grand 
farewell dinner was given him at the London Tavern, at 
which some very great people, literary, artistic, aristo- 
cratic, were present. We shall meet Macready again at 
Covent Garden. 

In the autumn season, Gye, of Covent Garden, ven- 
tured upon this forlorn hope with tragedy and opera ; 
but although the theatre was called for a time "The 
Grand National Opera House," prices raised, and com- 
petent artists engaged, it would not pay. In the July of 
1852 a Mr. Sheridan Smith was manager for one week, 
and for the same space of time a Mr. De Vere wielded 
Garrick's sceptre ; in the October of the same year Mr. 
George Bolton was a six days' monarch : none of these 
gentlemen having the wherewithal to meet the first 
week s expenses. 

At the close of the year last named, the directors let 
the theatre to Mr. E. T. Smith, publican and ex-police- 
man, at' a rental of ;^3,500. What a falling off was 
there from the EUiston and Macready days! Uncle 
Tonis Cabin, then in the full flush of its popularity, 
inaugurated a seven years' reign on Boxing Night, 1852. 
It was a lucky hit, for the whole nation was in one of 
its periodical fits of sickly sentiment over Mrs. Stowe's 
highly coloured fiction. Goldy the earliest dramatic 
version of Charles Reade's Never Too Late to Mendy 
followed, and completed the prosperity of the season. 
During 1853 and 1854, Gustavus Brooke, whom we 
shall meet at the Olympic, drew crowded houses. But 
following in Bunn s footsteps. Smith made Drury Lane 
an opera-house rather than a theatre. 

Italian opera was given at cheap prices in 1853 and in 
succeeding seasons : stalls, four shillings ; dress-circle, 


• /- : ::---:': :- : : :. 

half-a«crown ; second circles and 'pit, one" sHillihg'i'and' 
the two galleries, sixpence ; while one guinea was the 
highest price charged for a private box. And at this 
tariff" the public could hear Madame Gassier, Lucy 
Escott, Miss Huddart, Hamilton Braham, Bettini, 
Borrani, etc But Smith, like Bunn, was a showman and 
of a lower grade; he, Smith, alternated Gustavus Brooke, 
Miss Glynn, and Charles Mathews with Chinese con- 
jurers and a man-fly who crawled upon the ceiling, and 
the great Rachel with a circus. Yet he might have 
succeeded in making the speculation remunerative had 
he confined his energies within reasonable bounds ; but 
he was at the same time lessee of Drury Lane, the 
Alhambra, Her Majesty's, and a travelling circus ; land- 
lord of the Radnor Tavern, at the top of Chancery 
Lane, wine merchant, auctioneer, picture dealer, land 
agent, bill discounter, newspaper proprietor, etc., etc. 
No wonder that, between so many stools, he ultimately 
came to the ground. 

Dion Boucicault, after his quarrel with Webster, in the 
early autumn of 1862, opened Drury Lane for a season 
with The Colleen Bawn^ Madame Celeste, himself, and 
his wife being the principal attractions. This was fol- 
lowed by the Relief of Lucknow. In the December of 
the same year, Edmund Falconer, having made ;^ 13,000 
by The Peep 0' Day at the Lyceum, was ambitious to try 
his fortunes at the National Theatre. His opening 
piece, Bonnie Dundee, upon which he spent a large sum, 
was a direful failure. In 1863 he entered into partner- 
ship with his acting manager, F. B, Chatterton, and 
produced finely mounted revivals of King John^ Henry 
/K, Manfred^ Fausty and ComuSy with Phelps, Walter 
Montgomery, Mrs. Hermann Vezin, and a fairly good 
company to interpret them, Phelps's delineation of 

I02 • '•' • - • •• TTHE. LONDON STAGE 

A::/:'-*.::*'.*!-: : /•/ ': 

•fiyfoft's'stSmyrH'heVb" w^^ with Werner, I think, the 

finest thing in tragedy the Sadler s Wells manager ever 
did. His address to Astarte had in it a ring of pathetic 
passion that he seldom rose to, and the declamatory 
speeches were given with a power of elocution that one 
never hears nowadays. The scenic effects were grand ; 
no scene more stupendous than the Hall of Ahrimanes, 
■ with the Demon seated on his globe of fire surrounded 
by his satellites, could be imagined. The part had been 
performed at Drury Lane many years before by an 
actor named Denvil, who made a great hit in it. When 
Phelps was playing the part, Denvil was taking checks 
at the gallery door. 

Within three years Falconer lost all his money, and 
Chatterton was then accepted by the committee as sole 
lessee at a rental of £6^000 per annum, and ;^io a night 
for every additional performance over 200. When we 
compare this with the sum paid by E. T. Smith a few 
years previously, we gather how rapidly theatrical 
property was even then rising in the market. 

Chatterton followed on with Shakespeare and Byron 
and the old comedies, interpreted by Phelps, Walter 
Montgomery, Barry Sullivan, John Ryder, Helen Faucit, 
Mrs. Hermann Vezin, Miss Neilson. But he afterwards 
told the world that Shakespeare spelt ruin, and Byron, 
bankruptcy. So in 1868 he brought out The Great City^ 
the first of those panoramic dramas of modern life which 
have since attained to such extraordinary proportions on 
this very stage. The introduction of a real cab and a 
real horse was then considered a marvel of realism. 

A series of adaptations of Scott's novels, with beautiful 
Adelaide Neilson as Rebecca and Amy Robsart, Phelps 
in the double rdle of King James and Trapbois in 714^ 
Fortunes of Nigel^ and other romantic dramas, together 


with the annual pantomime and William Beverley's 
transformation scene, kept the theatre going for a time. 
But by-and-by both actors and entertainments deterior- 
ated in quality, falling" from bad to worse. He made 
a final effort during his last season, engaged Mrs. Her- 
mann Vezin, Ryder, and Charles Dillon as the star, 
produced Macbeth^ Othello, The Winters Tale, Bel- 
phegor, and other plays; but Dillon was only a wreck. 
Even the pantomime did not draw, and on February 
4th, 1879, Chatterton retired with liabilities amounting 
to ;^36,ooo. Drury Lane, however, was not responsible 
for all the losses ; he was at this time manager of the 
Adelphi and Princess's as well, and neither was paying. 

November 6th, 1879, enter "Augustus Druriolanus," 
as his friends used to call the future knight. The story 
of how Augustus Harris became lessee of Drury Lane, 
as told by himself, reads like a bit of smart fiction. 
Passing the house one day, he saw a notice on the doors 
that it was closed He had always cherished a belief 
that he could work Drury Lane and make it a success, 
by means of gorgeous pantomimes. Someone offered 
to find him the money to carry out his ideas. Relying 
upon this promise, he proposed himself as a tenant to 
the committee of proprietors, who, after some hesitation, 
touching his youth — he was only twenty-seven — agreed 
to let him the theatre, on condition that he would pay 
;^i,ooo down. At that time all his worldly wealth was 
;^5 1 5 J. He hurried off to his backer, but the gentle- 
man backed out, and suggested a dinner at the Aquarium 
instead. To continue in his own words, " I was ready 
to go anywhere and catch at a straw. At the Aquarium 
he, the ex-backer, introduced me to Mr. Rendle " (after- 
wards his father-in-law) " in these words, * Allow me to 
introduce my friend, Mr. Augustus Harris, the new 


lessee of Drury Lane. I believe you were one of the 
unsuccessful proposers for the theatre,* and then, turning 
to me, he said, * Mr. Rendle wanted to give the Vokeses 
another chance at the Lane.' " 

Harris proposed to join forces with Mr. Rendle, he to 
find the work, his partner the money, confessing candidly 
in the same breath his financial position. ** I saw him 
several times, and told him that with ;^3,ooo I would 
undertake to open the house and produce my pantomime. 
This was a bold venture, seeing that this year Covent 
Garden was going to do pantomime on the most lavish 
scale ! A bold venture ! I look back, and it seems mad- 
ness ! Well, sir, I think Rendle got tired of me, and to get 
rid of me at last said, * Look here, Harris, I will find 
£ 2,000, on condition you find the first £ i ,000. * ' Agreed, ' 
I cried, * TU do it.' " And perhaps at that moment he did 
not possess as many pence ! Off he went to a refreshment 
contractor, and obtained from him a promise of ;^ 2 50 as 
soon as the lease was signed ; then with great difficulty 
he induced a relative to do a little bill for another ;^25o. 
That afternoon, while walking in the park, he met a 
couple of friends, who invited him home to dinner with 
them. Over the wine and cigars he asked for a loan of 
;^25o, and got it. ** Next day I bounced into Rendle's 
office. 'Got ;^75o, can't get any more.* My frankness, 
my earnestness, more than my plans, I think, won him, 
and he lent me the money ; but the capital was ;^2,75o, 
not ;^3,ooo.'* 

Harris started the most prosperous reign that any 
monarch of Old Drury had enjoyed since David Garrick 
with George Rignold in Henry V.; then followed the 
pantomime, Bltie Beard; both were successful. Next 
season he began the series of spectacular sensational 
dramas with The World; Youths Pluck, A Million of 


Money, A Sailors Knot, etc., followed one another, all 
of the same pattern. During his management, however, 
he produced six of Shakespeare's plays and a few ro- 
mantic dramas, such as The Spanish Armada, The 
Royal Oak. In the summer of 1881 he brought over 
the Saxe-Meiningen Company, a notable engagement, 
which exercised an important influence upon English 
stage art In the following year Ristori appeared once 
more as Elizabeth, Lady Macbeth, and in other of her 
favourite r61es. The company of the Theatre Fran9ais 
was here in 1893, and previous to this, in 1886, the 
manager started opera seasons with the finest artistes to 
be found — the De Reszkes, Mme. Melba, Lassalle, Emma 
Eames, Nordica, etc. Of his Co vent Garden seasons 
I shall have something to say at the end of the next 

Each Christmas brought forth a pantomime more 
gorgeous and elaborate than its predecessors. Truly 
they were not the pantomimes of old ; they were all 
glitter, pageantry, costume, scenery, processions, and 
mechanical effects, and sometimes not even Dan Leno 
and Herbert Campbell could save them from being 
dreary — but they paid, the manager made money, the 
shareholders got good dividends — so nimporte ! 

Being Sheriff of the City of London in 1891, on the 
occasion of the German Emperor s visit, Harris received 
the honour of knighthood. 

The number of his undertakings, which included six 
or seven theatres, innumerable travelling companies, a 
newspaper, besides ordinary business speculations, ex- 
hausted his physique, and he fell a victim to a wasting 
disease at the age of forty-five, June 22nd, 1896. 
During the next season, Drury Lane was carried on 
under the name of his widow, but since then it has been 


managed by a syndicate, with Arthur Collins, who was 
Sir Augustus's business man, as manager. He has 
followed faithfully in the steps of his predecessor, and 
produced an annual sensational drama, The White 
Heather, The Price of Peace, The Millionaire^ The 
Best of Friends, exhausting earth, fire, and water, both 
above and beneath, for blood-curdling situations, until 
one anxiously asks, what has he left undone, what will be 
the next startler ? And each Christmas he has given us 
the usual gorgeous pantomime with the usual people. 
In 1 90 1, ;^ 1 5,000 was spent upon reconstructing and 
redecorating the house, great improvements being 
effected, not only in the auditorium, but in the mechan- 
ical arrangement of the stage. In the following year, 
Mr. Collins returned to a custom that had lately lapsed, 
and opened the great theatre for a summer season with 
a very elaborate production of Ben Hur. This year he 
has gone one better with Sir Henry Irving and Dante, 
which, though disappointing as a play, was probably 
the most stupendous '*get up" that any stage has yet 

The Fortunatus cap that was bestowed upon Sir 
Augustus has been inherited by his successor, as the 
handsome dividends that the shareholders receive each 
year, and the splendid reserve fund which is constantly 
being added to, amply testify. I wonder if ^he ghosts 
of a century of ruined managers ever revisit the scene 
of their earthly misfortunes ? If so, how mortifying the 
contrast must be ! 


The Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatres, 1660-1743, and the Three Theatres 
Royal, Covent Garden, 1732- 1903— Their famous Actors and Actresses 
— The origin of English Pantomime — A retrospect of histrionic and 
dramatic Art and Literature from Betterton to Macready. 

UNDER date November 20th, 1660, Pepys wrote 
in his Diary: " Mr. Shipley and I went to the new 
playhouse near Lincoln's Inn Fields (which was formerly 
Gibbon's tennis court), where the play of Beggars Bush 
was newly begun, and so we went in and saw it well 
acted. It is the finest playhouse, I believe, that ever 
was in England" 

This theatre had been opened a week or two previously 
under the patent^ granted by Charles II. to Sir William 
Davenant, poet, dramatist, and soldier. Pepys' reference 
to it as "the finest playhouse" is curious, since within 
eight years after its erection, Sir William found it to be 
too small, and started building a new house in Dorset 
Gardens. He died in the same year (1668), leaving his 
interest in the patent to Lady Davenant, who was 
assisted in the management by Harris and Betterton. 
At the lady s death, Charles and Alexander Davenant 
succeeded to her rights. On the retirement of the latter 
in 1690, Charles sold his interest to Christopher Rich. 
The fortunes of the house during the few following 
years have been sketched in the chapter on Drury 
Lane, and how, when the Lord Chamberlain silenced 

' See Chapter I. 


his patent, rogue Rich, being possessed of the lease of 
Davenant's old theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, at once 
set about rebuilding it. It was not, however, until after 
the accession of George I. that he could obtain leave 
again to exercise the rights of his patent ,But ere the 
curtain rose upon the new stage the crafty lawyer had 
gone to render up his last account, and it was his son 
John who opened the house, December 8th, 17 14. It is 
described by contemporaries as a handsome building, the 
interior superbly adorned with mirrors on each side, the 
stage furnished with new scenery, and '' more extended " 
than Drury Lane. 

John Rich had a taste for acting, and at first essayed 
tragedy ; but, being a man entirely devoid of education, 
he made a dismal failure. Yet there was a strong dra- 
matic genius in this coarse, illiterate man, and it burst 
forth when, in \i7i7,| he appeared as Harlequin, in a 
pantomime c^W^o. Harlequin Executed. Borrowed from 
the Italian Arlecchino, Harlequin had hitherto been a 
speaking part ; it was Rich, or Lun, as he chose to call 
himself in the bills, who, simply from his inability to 
speak upon the stage, originated the silent Harlequin,^ 
yet by mere dumb action he could rival the power and 
pathos of the most accomplished tragedian. 

"On his last revival of The Sorcerer^' writes Jackson, 
in his History of the Scottish Stagey ''\ saw him practise 
the hatching of Harlequin by the heat of the sun, in 
order to point out the business to Miles, who, though 
excellent in the line of dumb significance, found it no 
easy matter to retain the lesson Rich had taught him — 
this certainly was a masterpiece in dumbshow — from the 

' The speaking Harlequin was common, however, for many years after- 
wards ; we find Garrick performing it at Goodman^s Fields (see p. 68), and 
long afterwards Harry Woodward was famous in the character. 


first chipping of the ^%%^ his receiving of motion, his 
feeling of the ground, his standing upright, to his quick 
Harlequin trip round. the empty shell, through the whole 
progression, every limb had its tongue and every motion 
a voice, which spoke with most miraculous organ to the 
understanding and sensation of the observers." 

Early in 1723 the managers of Drury Lane, in rivalry 
to Rich, produced a pantomime by Dr. Thurmond, a 
dancing-master, entitled Harlequin Doctor Faustus, 
which, constructed on a much more elaborate scale 
than those hitherto given at Lincoln's Inn Fields, may 
be considered as the first English pantomime. Not to 
be outdone, in the December of the same year. Rich 
brought out his famous Necromancer ; or Harlequin 
Executed^ which far surpassed in splendour all that had 
yet been seen. The prologue to this piece is very 
suggestive as to the relative positions of the two houses. 

" Yon rival theatre by success made great, 
Plotting destruction to our sinking State, 
Tum'd our own arms upon us — and woe be to us — 
They needs must raise the Devil to undo us \ 
Straight our enchanter gave his spirit wing. 
And conjured all the town within this ring." 

A continuous rivalry was now carried on between the 
two theatres, and pantomime became the great attraction 
at both ; for while at Drury Lane Booth, Wilks, Gibber, 
and Mrs. Oldfield could draw but ;^500 a week to the 
Treasury, the JG gnius of Nonsen se would swell the 
receipts to ;^ 1,000. The price to the boxes was raised 
from four to five shillings at pantomime time ; but the 
following curious notice was put upon the bill of the 
play : " The advance money to be returned to those 
who choose to go out before the overture of the enter-* 
tainment." As late as 1747 we find a similar notice 


in Garrick s bills. Yet when Garrick became one of 
the managers of Drury Lane he promised the audience 
that he would not attempt to gain their patronage by 
such spurious attractions as pantomimes ; but in spite 
of the appeal he made to the public to support him in 
his laudable resolve,^ he was very soon compelled to 
rescind his promise, and follow in the footsteps of his 

/ r predecessors. 

The opening of the old English pantomime was really 
\ modelled with certain modifications upon the masque 

\ \oi the Elizabethan and the Stuart days, that by its 
gorgeous scenery and mechanical effects anticipated the 
spectacular display of a later dateiL The story was 
usually founded upon a classical subject, and was illus- 
trated with music and grand scenic effects ; on to this 
was tacked a comic transformation after the Italian style. 
Harlequin was turned into a magician, who, by a touch 
of his bat, could transform a palace into a hut, men and 
women into wheelbarrows and chairs, and colonnades 
into beds of tulips or serpents, and all these mechanical 
tricks were worked as deftly nearly two centuries ago as 
they are now. Harlequin was the hero, for the clown 
was simply a rustic servant of Pantaloon s, and played a 
very unimportant part in the "piece until the genius of 
Grimaldi developed him into a new dramatic creation. It 
may be mentioned that the tight spangled dress was not 
\ worn by Harlequin until the nineteenth century. From 
the days of The Necromancer pantomimes never ceased 

1 " Tis yours this night to bid the reign commence 

Of rescu'd nature and reviving sense ; 

To chase the charms of sound, the pomp of show, 

For useful mirth and salutary woe ; 

Bid scenic virtue form the rising age, 

And truth diffuse her radiance fix>m the stage." 
* See p. 23. 


to be the best trump card a manager could play at 
either of the patent houses. 

The opening of the new Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre 
drew away several members of the Drury Lane com- 
pany. In 17 17 James Quin, who had just before made 
his d^but at the latter house, passed over to Lincoln's 
Inn Fields, with which, and Covent Garden, his future 
career was mostly associated. It was not until 1720, 
however, that he made his great hit in the character 
of Falstaff; he was acknowledged to be the best 
representative of the fat knight since Betterton. As a 
tragedian he was the most stilted of declaimers — 

'' Heavy and phl^matic, he trod the stage, 
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage," 

wrote Churchill in The Rosciad, yet until Garrick rose 
he was indisputably the first actor of his day. 

A most serious riot occurred at the Portugal Street 
Theatre in 1721 through the practice of allowing certain 
privileged persons to sit upon the stage during the per- 
formance. As an illustration of the theatrical manners of 
the age this incident is worth pages of description. One 
night, in a principal scene of Macbeth^ a nobleman crossed 
from one side of the stage to the other, in front of the 
actors, to speak to a friend ; when Rich remonstrated 
with him upon the impropriety of such behaviour my lord 
struck him in the face. Rich and- Quin drew their 
swords, the rest of the company supported them, and 
the beaux took the offender's side. But the players 
proving too strong, their foes were driven out of the 
theatre. Reinforced, the rioters soon returned, smashed 
the handsome mirrors that lined the proscenium, threw 
torches among the scenery, tore up the seats, and it was 
not until the military were called out that the disturbance 


was quelled From that time a fashion, which had been 
introduced by Charles 11. , of posting a guard on each 
side the stage, was revived, and partly survives to the 
present day in the soldiers that attend the performances 
at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. 

Perhaps the greatest event of Rich*s management was 
the production of Gay's Beggars Opera (1727-8). This 
" Newgate Pastoral *' took the town by storm, and drew 
crowded houses for sixty-two nights. Ladies had their 
fans painted with subjects from the piece; Sir Robert 
Walpole and Townshend went to see themselves satirised 
as the two thieves and receivers, Peachum and Lockit ; 
Walker, the original Macheath, and Lavinia Fenton, the 
Polly Peachum, became the darlings of the town. At 
the end of the season the Duke of Bolton carried Polly 
away, and afterwards made her his duchess — 3. position 
which she well became by her wit, her taste, her under- 
standing, and her manners. 

Towards the end of 1731 John Rich, on account of 
Lincoln's Inn Fields having fallen into decay,* set on 
foot a subscription for erecting a new theatre in Bow 
Street, Covent Garden. A year afterwards he vacated 
the oidTiouse. "And'liere the story of the Portugal 
Street theatre may be said to end. In 1 733-4 J t was 
opened by the celebrated Porpora with an Italian opera 
company, in opposition to Handel at the King s Theatre, 
and became the more fashionable house of the two. 
After that it was let for balls, concerts, and was occasion- 
ally taken by actors whom the patent theatres left out in 
the cold. The latest date, as far as I can discover, at 
which it was used as a^eatre was 1742-3, when it 
was opened by Giffard for a short time after the final 

> As the house had been opened only seventeen years, this would lead 
us to suppose that the " rebuilding '' must have been very superficiaL 


closing of Goodman's Fields. The building afterwards 
served at different times as a barrack, an auction-room, 
a china warehouse, and it was not until 1848, when it 
was pulled down for the enlargement of the museum 
of the College of Surgeons, that the last remains of the 
theatre finally disappeared. 

Most of the great actors and actresses who flourished 
between 1662 and 1730 had appeared within those 
walls. And here were produced Congreve s two greatest 
comedies, and two of the greatest in the world s litera- 
ture. Love for Love ^ 1695, The Way of the Worlds 1700, 
and his one tragedy, The Mourning Bride, which, if it 
does not contain " the true Promethean fire," is a work 
of great merit, especially in its versification, and was the 
model for Rowe, Young, and the best writers in the 
tragic vein who immediately followed him. 

Six thousand pounds being quickly subscribed for the 
new theatre, the building was at once commenced. 
Its progress seems to have excited considerable interest 
among ** the quality," and the precincts became quite a 
fashionable resort, a number of people assembling every 
day to watch the masons at work. Rich paid the Duke 
of Bedford ;^ioo a year as ground rent; this, at the 
old manager's death, was raised to ;^300, and in 1792 
to ;^940. The house was decorated in gorgeous style 
by the Italian artist, Amiconi, who painted a magnificent 
ceiling, representing the gods banqueting in the clouds ; 
the scenery, said to have been very fine, was by the 
same artist, assisted by George Lambert, the founder 
of the Beefsteak Club. It was but a small theatre ; 
from the stage to the back of the boxes the length was 
, onl y fiftv-one feet > and it would hold when full not more 
Hhan^200, although space was economised to such an 
extent that"lonly twenty-one inches were allowed to each 


person. The prices of admission were — ^boxes, 5^. ; 
pit, 35. 6d. ; galleries, 2s, and i^. ; and seats on the 
tfage. icxy. 6d. ; there were two entrances, one under the 
Piazza, and the other in Bow Street. 

On the first night, December 7th, 1732, so great was 
the demand for places that pit and boxes were amalga- 
mated at 5^. The opening piece was Congreve's Way 
of the World. This was followed by a revival of the 
Beggars Opera, -^i^ the original cast, which ran twenty 
nights, while the rest of the company played at Lincoln's 
Inn Fields. 

During the first few years of its existence there is 
little that is interesting in the history of Covent Garden ; 
season after season old tragedies and old comedies, 
occasionally varied by a new play, succeeded each other 
in regular succession. The company also remained 
pretty much the same, except when death removed the 
veterans. A dead level of conventional dulness and 
mediocrity reigned throughout the theatrical world, and 
no first appearance of any interest took place at Covent 
Garden until Peg Woffingto n^ whose saucy face still looks 
down upon us fioni the walls of the Garrick Club, already 
the idol of Dublin, having, after many rebuffsj forced her 
way into the presence of John Rich and his seven-and- 
twenty cats, prevailed upon the eccentric manager to 
engage her. She opened on November 8th, 1740, as 
Sylvia, in the Recruiting Officer. On the 20th of the 
same month she played Sir Harry Wildair in the 
Constant Couple, and electrified the town by a perform- 
ance such as had not been seen since Wilks played the 
part. She repeated the character twenty times during 
the season to crowded houses. No woman before, or 
since, ever made so delightful a stage rake, so elegant, 
so fascinating, so debonair, that even ladies fell in love 



with her. In the following season she went over to 
Drury Lane. But it was at Co vent Garden, in 1757, 
while playing Rosalind, that she was death-stricken. 

She had complained of feeling unwell all through the 
performance, but when, in the epilogue, she came to the 
line, **If I were among you I would kiss as many as had 
beards that pleased me," her voice broke, she faltered, 
then screaming ** O God! O God! " tottered to the stage 
door, and was caught by someone standing there. She 
lingered on for three years, but never again was the 
brilliant actress seen upon the stage. She was only 
forty-four years of age. 

In 1744 the noted George Anne Bellamy made her 
first appearance upon these boards as Monimia in The 
Orphan. She was such a mere child at the time that 
Quin objected to play with her, but so admirably did she 
acquit herself, that at the end of the performance he 
caught her in his arms and exclaimed, "Thou art a 
divine creature, and the true spirit is in thee." In 
after years, though far inferior in genius to those great 
actresses, she rivalled both Mrs. Gibber and Woffington. 
For this, however, she was more indebted to her beauty 
and brilliant conversational gifts, in which she almost 
equalled **the lovely Peggy," between her and whom 
there was deadly rivalry, than to her histrionic powers. 
She was Garrick's Juliet during the famous run of 
Shakespeare's tragedy at Drury Lane.^ 

^ In 1785, worn down by poverty, degradation, and sickness, the once 
charming George Anne Bellamy, who had intoxicated the town by her 
charms of manner and person, now so decrepit that she could not rise 
from the armchair in which she was seated upon the stage, took leave 
of the public at Drury Lane, where a benefit had been organised to 
save from utter starvation the woman who once, in her magnificent 
generosity, gave ;£ 1,000 towards the better clothing of our soldiers abroad, 
and never passed a sentinel on guard afterwards without a blessing. Some 
time before her death she published her very amusing memoirs. 


Pantomime still reigned supreme at Covent Garden 
as it had at Lincoln's Inn Fields ; John Rich had little 
more consider^-tion for the dignity of the drama than had 
his father, and when acting would not draw he did not 
scruple to supplement it with wild beasts, tumblers, 
contortionists, and rope-dancers. And yet he divided 
with Drury Lane all the histrionic ability of the time. 
But he always believed himself to be a crushed tragedian; 
took pupils and gave Uvies at which he delighted to spout 
scenes from Richard the Thirds in his ludicrous fashion. 
He was jealous of every successful actor. When poor 
George Anne Bellamy made her great hit as Juliet, he 
declared it was not owing to her acting, but to his 
arrangement of the funeral procession ; and when Barry 
was drawing crowded houses, he would peep through the 
curtain of a night and mutter to himself, " What, you are 
come again, are you ? Much good may it do you ! — I 
don't envy your taste." Tate Wilkinson in his Memoirs, 
and Jackson in his History of the Scottish Stage, tell 
many amusing stories of Rich's eccentricities, and of his 
extraordinary habit of calling everyone out of his or her 

When the new theatre first opened Quin was in the 
height of his popularity ; haughty, absolute, overbearing, 
every actor, and even John Rich himself, trembled before 
him. In 1746 Garrick accepted an engagement to play 
at Covent Garden with Quin, against Quin, and in Quin's 
stronghold. It was in Rowe's Fair Penitent the battle 
of the schools was fought : the elder actor was Horatio, 
Garrick ** the gallant, gay Lothario." It was a marvel- 
lous contrast, the monotonous cadences, the dreary pauses, 
the sawing of the air, the dignified indifference to the 
sentiments he was uttering, which marked Quin's style ; 
and the passion, the impulse, the deep intensity of his 


rival ; and although the old school had still many ad- 
herents, the public verdict was not long in doubt. 

In 1750 a far more formidable rival, "silver-tongued" 
Spranger Barry, divided the suffrages of the town with 
Garrick in Romeo ; playgoers were astonished at the 
play running twelve nights at Drury Lane and thirteen 
at the Covent Garden, and wits composed epigrams upon 
the extraordinary event. Barry's fine person, handsome 
face, and musical voice gave him a great advantage over 
" little David," and, in addition, he had Mrs. Gibber, the 
most passionately pathetic of actresses, for his Juliet. A 
lady after seeing the play at both houses remarked that 
if she had been the Juliet to Garrick she should have 
expected he would have come up to her, and if she had 
been the Juliet to Barry she would certainly have jumped 
down to him. 

But when the two played Lear against one another, 
Garrick s supremacy asserted itself Wonderful stories, 
however, are told of Barry's Othello, of ladies shrieking 
with terror at his delivery of the line, ''I'll tear her all to 
pieces " ; of actors who were so vividly impressed that they 
could not sleep after witnessing it.^ At fifty this Apollo 
had become old and infirm, and Reynolds, the dramatist, 

^ Churchill, however, {The Rosciad)^ who, though severe and sarcastic 
upon most of the actors of the time, could yet praise highly where praise was 
merited, in his picture of Barry gives one the idea of a conventional and 
somewhat affected actor : — 

Again : 

" Who else can speak so very, very fine, 
That sense may kindly end with every line." 

" When he appears most perfect, still we find 
Something which jars upon and harts the mind : 
Whatever lights upon a part are thrown, 
We see too plainly they are not his own. 
No flame from nature ever yet he caught, 
Nor knew a feeling which he was not taught ; 
He raised his trophies on the base apart. 
And conn*d his passions as he conn'd his part" 


gives a sadly contrasted picture of him as the noble 
Moor hi a full suit of gold-laced scarlet, a little cocked 
hat, knee-breeches, and silk stockings, that conspicuously 
displayed a pair of gouty legs. 

r^ich died in 1761, leaving the theatre to his son-in-law, 
^o}in ^Peard / the vocalist, for himself and wife, with the 
proviso that the property should be sold whenever he 
could obtain ;^6o,ooo for it; and it was for this sum 
that George Colman the elder, Harris, Rutherford, and 
Powell, in 1767, purchased the patent. 

The event was celebrated in an *' occasional prologue" 
to The Rehearsal^ written by Whitehead, and spoken by 
Powell, on the opening night of the season, four lines of 
which ran : — 

" For Brentford's State two kings could once suffice, 
In ours behold y2?«r kings of Brentford rise, 
All smelling to one nosegay's od'rous savour 
The balmy nosegay of the public favour." 

The company at this time included Powell, a very fine 
tragedian, of whom mention has been made in the 
previous chapter, " Gentlemen " Smith, Bensley; Shuter, 
Macklin, Woodward, Yates, Hull, Mrs. Yates, Mrs. 
Bellamy, Mrs. Mattocks, Mrs. Ward, Miss Macklin, 
Mrs. Buckley, etc. 

Rich had depended principally upon pantomimes, and 
Beard upon light musical pieces, but the new management 
resorted to a more legitimate entertainment to draw the 
public. Before the end of the first season, however, the 
partners were divided into two factions, with Harris 

1 Miss Rich was Beard's second wife, his first was Lady Hamilton 
Herbert, the daughter of the Earl of W^aldegrave. Beard was a very 
worthy fellow, and until the appearance of Indedon, was unequalled as an 
English ballad singer. The elder Dibdin considered him the finest of all 
our native tenors. 


and Rutherford on one side and Colman and Powell on 
the other. It seems to have been, as usual, a case of 
cherchez la femme ; a Mrs. Lessingham, a favourite of 
Harris's, not having the parts assigned her which she 
fancied, succeeded in irritating her cher ami against 
Colman, who was the stage director, and to such a height 
did hostilities rise at last, that after the close of the 
season, in June 1768, Colman took possession of the keys 
and refused Harris admission to the theatre. The latter, 
together with Rutherford and a posse of roughs, broke 
into the house through a window in Hart Street and 
carried off a considerable part of the wardrobe, books, and 
other property. This led to a lawsuit, which was not 
settled until 1770; a quarrel between Harris and the 
lady who had caused all this disturbance, in the interim, 
however, considerably tended to an amicable arrange- 
ment by which Colman was reinstated as manager. 

March 1 5th, 1 773, marked an important era in dramatic 
history, for on that night Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops 
to Conquer was produced at Covent Garden. And it 
required all the influence of Dr. Johnson and his literary 
coterie to induce Colman to accept the piece. Several 
of the company refused to play in a comedy that was so 
ungenteeL But the audience soon caught the spirit of 
the author, and nature once more asserted her sway 
upon the stage over the inane artificialities of the school 
of Hugh Kelly.^ 

That same year Lewis, the most mercurial of come- 
dians, made his first appearance in London ; and Macklin, 
at the age of eighty-four, performed Macbeth for the 
first time on the metropolitan stage, and had the 
courage to substitute Highland tartans — a costume 
which survived until Charles Kean's famous revival of 

* Seep. 155. 


the tragedy at the Princess's — for Garrick's gold-laced 
scarlet coat. 

It was said at the time that he looked more like an 
old Scotch piper than a prince of the blood royal, and 
that his performance was very uneven ; so while some 
applauded, others hissed. This opposition, he asserted, 
proceeded from his brother actors ; law proceedings 
and affidavits followed, and the next time he appeared 
as Macbeth he was met with howls of disapprobation ; 
more than that, the audience insisted upon his discharge 
upon the spot, and would not listen to a word until an 
actor brought a board upon the stage, upon which was 
written: '*At the command of the public, Mr. Macklin 
is discharged." The next season, however, found him 
re-established in favour. 

Colman sold his share of the patent in 1774, and as 
Powell was dead and Rutherford was a mere cypher, 
Hafris took that absolute position in the direction of the 
tKeatre which he retained until his death. 

Spranger Barry made his last appearance upon the 
stage here as Jaffier, in October, 1776, and died in the 
following January. Harry Woodward passed away in 
the same year. In 1780 we find the irrepressible non- 
agenarian, Macklin, playing Sir Pertinax Macsycophant 
in his own comedy. The Man of the World, for ^e first 
time in London. 

/ From 1779 to his premature death in 1785, Hender- 

; son, who, as I have said before, was generally considered 
to be Garrick's successor, was the leading attraction 

• at Co vent Gorden. We shall meet him at the Hay- 
market in an earlier part of his career. 

r Covent Garden underwent so many alterations in 1787 
,' that it was virtually rebuilt, and five years later was 
i again greatly enlarged. 


A very remarkable farewell was witnessed at Covent 
Garden on May 7th, 1789, when Macklin, at the age 
of ninety-nine, took leave of the stage in his great part 
of Shylock, which he had recreated fifty-seven years 
previously at Drury Lane, before Bolingbroke, Swift, 
Steele, and Pope. Memory had long been failing the 
wonderful old man, and his dazed look when he entered 
the green-room, and his strange questions, prepared 
everyone for a breakdown. He delivered the first two 
or three speeches correctly, but evidently without any 
understanding ; then he stopped, tried to go on aga^n, 
but all was blank, and coming forward to the footlights, 
he begged the audience, in a broken voice, to pardon 
him, and allow his substitute, who had been kept ready 
dressed at the wings, to finish the performance. He 
lived to his hundred and eighth year, but never again 
set foot upon the stage. 

Full justice has scarcely been done to Macklin's 
remarkable powers; it was he who, in 1741, initiated 
that sweeping reform in the histrionic art which Garrick 
perfected,^ ahd it was he who, as we have just seen, in 
1773, made the first attempt at appropriate costume 
upon the English stage. Churchill, however, describes 
his acting as "hard, affected, and constrained," and he 
had a harsh and unprepossessing countenance. Macklin 
was a dramatic author of some ability ; The Man of the 
World kept the stage until Phelps's retirement ; he was 

' As Garrick and Macklin were fast friends long before the former 
appeared upon the stage, and used to spend hours together walking 
up and down beneath the Coyent Garden Piazza, discussing the state of the 
drama, it is very probable that these conversations gave Garrick his first 
idea of a new style of acting, which his natural powers so admirably adapted 
him to carry out In regard to Macklin's age there is a doubt, but he 
always asserted that he was bom in the year of the Battle of the Boyne, 
1690, and there is considerable evidence to prove the correctness of his 


also the author of another very good comedy, Love d la 

Charles Incledon, perhaps the greatest tenor this 
country has ever produced, made his first appearance at 
Covent Garden as Dermot in The Poor Soldier in 1790. 
He had been a man-of-war s-man, though previous to 
his entering the navy he had received some musical 
education as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral from the 
famous organist, Jackson. Incledon must have been a 
marvellous ballad-singer ; when Rauzzini heard him at 
Bath, rolling his voice grandly up like a surge of the 
sea till, touching the top note, it died away in sweetness, 
he exclaimed in rapture, '* Corpo di Dio ! it was very 
lucky there was some roof above, or you would be heard 
by the angels in heaven and make them jealous." He 
himself used to tell a story of the effect he produced 
upon Mrs. Siddons : " She paid me one of the finest 
compliments I ever received. I sang ' The Storm ' after 
dinner; she cried and sobbed like a child. Taking both 
my hands she said, ' All that I and my brother ever did 
is nothing to the effect you produce.' " " I, remember," 
says William Robson, in The Old Playgoer, *' when the 
ilite of taste and science and literature were assembled 
to pay the well-deserved compliment of a dinner to John 
Kemble, and to present him with a handsome piece of 
plate on his retirement, Incledon sang, when requested, 
his best song, * The Storm.' The effect was sublime, 
the silence holy, the feeling intense; and while Talma 
was recovering from his astonishment, Kemble placed 
his hand on the arm of the great French actor and said, 
in an agitated, emphatic, and proud tone, * That is an 
English singer.' " Munden adds that Talma jumped up 
from his seat and embraced him. Yet Incledon never 
received more than ;^i6 a week. His last appearance 
in London was under EUiston at Drury Lane in 1820. 


Mrs. Glover, afterwards the most incomparable of 
"old women," made her London d^but here in 1797. 
In the first year of the nineteenth century, George 
Frederick Cooke, who, like Kean, had been for years a 
country stroller, at the age of forty-five created a veri- 
table sensation upon these boards as Richard. The 
story of his life is a sad record of wasted genius — 
wasted by the vilest dissipation. Never did actor more 
sorely try the patience of an indulgent public. Some- 
times he would disappoint a crowded house by not 
appearing at all ; at others he would present himself in 
a state of speechless intoxication. Illness was the 
culprit's excuse for his shortcomings, and in spite of 
their indignation the audience could not repress a roar 
of laughter when one night, after several ineffectual 
efforts to proceed, he laid his hand upon his heart, and 
hiccoughed, ** My old complaint, ladies and gentlemen, 
my old complaint." His last appearance at Co vent 
Garden, and in London, was June 5th, 18 10, when he 
played Falstaff. Two years afterwards he died in 
Boston, U.S., being the first of the great English actors 
who starred in America. 

Cooke left behind an enormous reputation ; some 
considered him superior to Kean in the character of 
Richard. A few years ago a criticism upon Cooke, 
written' by Charles Lamb for the columns of the 
Morning Post (January 2nd, 1802), was reproduced in 
the AthencBum. It is a fine piece of analysis, which 
brings the actor and his style vividly before us. I 
have only space, however, to quote one or two of the 
salient points. ** He has a tongue that can wheedle 
the devil. It has been ^the policy of that ancient 
and g^ey simulator, in all ages, to hide his horns 
and claws. The Richard of Mr. Cooke perpetually 


obtrudes hi3. We see the effect of his deceit uniformly 
successful ; but we do not comprehend how it succeeds. 
. . . The hypocrisy is too glaring and visible. . . . We 
are inclined to admit that in the delivery of single 
sentences, in a new and often feltcttous light thrown on 
old and hitherto misconstrued passages, no actor that we 
have seen has gone beyond Mr. Cooke. He is always 
alive to the scene before him, and by the fire and 
novelty of his manner he seems likely to infuse some 
warm blood into the frozen declamatory style into which 
our theatres have for some time past been degenerating." 

There is a vivid description of Cooke's Sir Giles 
Overreach in Lockhart s Life of Scott, contained in a 
letter of Sir Walter to Joanna BailHe (March 13th, 
18 1 3), " I saw him [John Kemble] play Sir Giles Over- 
reach, the Richard III. of middling life, last night; but 
he came not within a hundred miles of Cooke, whose 
terrible visage, and short, abrupt, and savage utterance 
gave a reality almost to that extraordinary scene in 
which he boasts of his own successful villainy to a 
nobleman of worth and honour, of whose alliance he is 
ambitious. Cooke, somehow, contrived to impress upon 
the audience the idea of such a monster of enormity 
as had learned to pique himself even upon his own 
atrocious character." Washington Irving describes his 
acting as I ago in the third act of Othello. ** He grasped 
Kemble's left hand with his own, and then fixed his 
right, like a claw, on his shoulder. In this position, 
drawing himself up to him with his short arm, he 
breathed his poisonous whispers into his ears. Kemble 
coiled and twisted his hand, writhing to get away, his 
right hand clasping his brows, and darting his eye back 
on lago." 

These several criticisms convey one impression, that 


of an actor of superlative power, who, by his terrific 
intensity, took an audience captive, and rendered them 
utterly oblivious, at the time, of his exaggerations and 
contempt of nature. His Sir Pertinax Macsycophant 
and Archy Macsarcasm (J^ove d la Mode) were, accord- 
ing to contemporary opinion, excellent performances. 
With all his shortcomings, which would be fatal to him 
according to present ideas of stage art, George Frederick 
Cooke must have been a very extraordinary actor. 

It was in 1803 that John Kemble, after his final break 
with Sheridan, purchased a sixth part of the Covent 
Garden patent for ;^2 3,000, though thirty-six years 
previously the whole had fetched only ;^6o,ooo. He 
succeeded Lewis, whose share it was he had bought, as 
stage-manager and general director. Mrs. Siddons 
shortly afterwards quitted Drury Lane and joined her 
brother in his new venture. 

At the end of the next year, Covent Garden witnessed 
one of those extraordinary furores which occasionally 
seize upon the British public for some rather ordinary 
personage or exhibition, while superior talent goes to 
the wall. A boy actor, named Master Betty, and called 
" the tenth wonder of the world," was at that time turn- 
ing the brains of provincial audiences, and although the 
Covent Garden company included Kemble, Siddons, 
Cooke, Munden, the management considered it worth 
while to offer this juvenile prodigy ;^50 a night. By 
one o'clock on December ist, 1804, the date of his first 
appearance, a prodigious concourse filled Bow Street. 
Towards evening the crowd assumed such alarming 
proportions that it was considered necessary to send for 
a guard of soldiers to clear the entrance and to form 
passages and approaches, that a probable catastrophe 
might be averted. Within a few minutes after the 


doors were opened the theatre was crammed, seats, 
lobbies, passages even that did not command a glimpse 
of the stage ; gentlemen wedged into suffocating corners 
were only kept from fainting by ladies' fans, while 
swooning persons of both sexes had to be dragged out 
of the human mass every few minutes. Drury Lane 
took ;^3CX) from the overflow. The roar of applause 
that burst forth as this infant phenomenon, who 
appeared in a version of Voltaire's Mirope called Bar- 
barossay dressed as the slave Achmet, stepped from the 
wings, was overwhelming, and as the audience had 
come determined to adore this new fetish, his success 
was proportionate to his reception. London enthusiasm 
surpassed even- the extravagances of the provinces ; 
duchesses contended for the honour of driving the 
young Roscius, as he was called, about in their carriages ; 
if he were indisposed, bulletins were regularly issued ; 
William Pitt adjourned the House of Commons in order 
to see him play some particular part, and the University 
of Cambridge made him the subject for a prize medal. 
Yet he was only a clever boy who had been well 
parrotted : the books from which he studied were marked 
for every inflection of the voice, and for every move- 
ment of the arms and legs. The craze, however, was 
of short duration ; when he returned in the next season 
he drew but indifferent houses. 

On September 30th, 1808, Co vent Garden was burned 
to the ground, twenty-three firemen perishing in the 
ruins. The loss of property was estimated at ;^ 150,000, 
of which only ;^50,ooo was covered by insurance. 

Before passing on to the new theatre, let me en- 
deavour to give some idea of the aspect of the old house. 
A drawing of the interior of Covent Garden, made 
about 1763, shows us the stage lit at the back by six 


chandeliers, each with twelve candles in brass sockets. 
Garrick abolished these at Drury Lane when he returned 
from the Continent, substituting concealed lamps in 
their place and introducing footlights. Tate Wilkinson, 
in his delightful Wandering Patentee, gives a vivid 
picture of the appearance of the theatre at this period. 
" On crowded nights an amphitheatre of seats was 
raised upon the stage, where there would be groups of 
ill-dressed lads and persons sitting on the stage in front 
three or four feet deep \ so that, in fact, a performer on 
a popular night could not step with safety, lest he should 
thereby hurt or affend, or be thrown down amidst scores 
of idle or tipsy apprentices. But it was the beaux who 
usually affected that part of the house. There was only 
one entrance on each side the stage, which was always 
particularly crowded. First they sported their own 
figures to gratify self-consequence and impede and in- 
terfere with the performers who had to come on and 
go off the stage. They loved to affront the audience, 
particularly the gallery part, who would answer by 
showering down oranges and half-eaten apples, to the 
great terror of the ladies in the pit, who were so closely 
wedged they could not move." Fancy the absurdity of 
Macbeth fresh from the murder of Duncan having to 
push his way through a throng of beaux. Riots so often 
arose from these causes that royal proclamations were 
issued, even as far back as 1673, forbidding spectators 
to be admitted to the stage, but the evil continued until 
Garrick suppressed it at Drury Lane in 1762.^ 

' In his very first playbill, as noted in the previous chapter, Garrick 
prohibited the admission of strangers to the stage. Long before that the 
Triumvirate made a successful stand against this custom, Gibber assuming 
the right of refusing admission by the stage door, without distinction ; but 
it was at the risk of his life, so furious were the beaux at being denied their 
privilege. Under Fleetwood and John Rich the abuse was again permitted. 


With a stage half proscenium, and lit by cwdles, 
there was not much scope for scenic effects, nevertheless 
Garrick engaged the famous Dutch artist Louth ^nberg ; 
but it was only to paint for his pantomimes a/id spec- 
tacles, while the legitimate drama went dingy enough. 

From the days of Dorset Garden, stage upholstery, as 
it is now called, with the exceptions just mentioned, was 
utterly neglected ; no appeal was made to the eye ; good 
plays and bad plays were finely acted, the actor was 
all-sufficient, and no gorgeous setting was considered 
necessary for the dramatic pictures. 

Eight months after the disastrous fire, a new and 
more splendid Covent Garden rose from the ashes of 
the old. Both Kemble and Mrs. Siddons had lost their 
stage wardrobes, which were consumed in the flames. 
But generous friends came forward to their assistance. 
The Duke of Northumberland sent Kemble the munifi- 
cent sum of ;^ 1 0,000, and returned him the bond on the 
day the first stone of the new house was laid, requesting 
that it might be thrown in to heighten the flames. The 
Prince of Wales presented him with ;^ 1,000, and laid 
the foundation stone on December 31st, 1803. New 
Covent Garden cost ;^ 150,000, ;^ 100, 000 of which was 
raised in shares of ;^500 each. Smirke was the archi- 
tect, his model being the Temple of Minerva in the 
Acropolis at Athens ; and the statues of Tragedy and 
Comedy, niched under the Doric portico in Bow 
Street, were by Flaxman. 

On account of the great expense of the undertaking, 
Kemble raised the prices of admission ; the boxes were 
advanced from six to seven shillings, and pit from three- 
and-sixpence to four shillings, and a third tier of boxes 
was erected and let for ;^ 12,000 a year. This, and a 
patriotic opposition to the engagement of Madame 


Catalan!, led to the famous, or infamous, . Old Price 
riots. The opening night was September i8th, 1804; 
the plays were Macbeth and The Quaker, As Kemble, 
after God Save the King, stepped forward to speak the 
opening address, he was saluted with groans, hisses, cat- 
calls, and shouts of " Old Prices ! " Not one word of 
the play was heard The Riot Act was read from the 
stage ; constables and even soldiers were called in, but 
the rioters held their ground. This went on night after 
night with ever-increasing violence. Men stuck the 
letters O. P. on their hats and waistcoats ; ladies wore 
O. P. medals. Dustmen's bells, coachmen's horns, 
watchmen's rattles, and a kind of carmagnole called 
the O. P. dance, nightly drowned every word the actors 
spoke. After a struggle of sixty-one nights, Kemble 
was obliged to give in, lower the pit to the old price, 
and do away with the private boxes. 

The ordinary expenses of Covent Garden at this 
period were ;^300 a night ; there was a quadruple 
company for tragedy, comedy, opera, and ballet. 
Between the years 1809 and 1821, tragedy was re- 
present-ed by Kemble, Cooke, Macready, Young, Charles 
Kemble, Conway, Terry, Abbot, Mrs. Siddons, Miss 
O'Neill, Mrs. Bunn, etc., etc. ; comedy by Munden, 
Johnstone, Liston, Jones, C. Kemble, Farren, Fawcett, 
Blanchard, Mathews, Emery, Farley, Yates ; Mesdames 
Jordan, Davison, Brunton, Gibbs, C. Kemble, Foote^ 
Davenport, etc. ; in opera by Braham, Incledon, Sinclair, 
Philips; Mesdames Catalani, Stephens, Maria Tree, 
Love, Fearon ; in pantomime by Byrne, Farley, Grim- 
aldi, Bologna, Ellar. Between the two dates named 
above the receipts were ;^ 1,000, 000, averaging ;^8o,ooo 
a season. 

During those years some notable first appearances- 



and two famous farewells had taken place on the boards 
of Covent Garden. In 1813, that most delicious of 
English vocalists, "enchanting Kitty Stephens," as 
James Smith lovingly called her, made her d^but at the 
age of . niuet^n a^ Mandane in Dr. Arpes. Artaxerxes, 
and .was hailed as the rival of Catalani. . Competent 
critics opined, t^at no. English c^ntatrice,. either before 
or after her^ h^sv ever built 90 pure and perfect an 
Engflish style, upoja : an .elaborate Italian basis, Leigh 
Hunt said that her bird-Hke triumphs in the part of 
Polly (Peachum) were like nothing else heard on the 
^tage, and left, all competition behind. A lady of un- 
impeachable character, in 1838 she became Cquntess of 
JEssex. .'It is not many years -ago sihce she. passed away 
at the great age of eightyrejght.. . 

Although .she appealed on two. occasions afterwards, 
namely, in 181 7 and 18.19, Mrs. Siddons took. her leave 
of the, stage on Juae 29th, .181.2, as Lady Macbeth; 
with true artistic feeling, the audience insisted that the 
play should terminate with the. sleep: walking ^cene, so 
that the last grand impression might not be, disturbed. 
The consensus of eulogy by all who saw.h^r act in her 
great days, as in the case of Garrick, renders the great- 
ness of her genius indisputable. . ** The enthusiasm she 
excited," to. quote Hazlitt, "had something idolatrous 
about it; she was regarded less with. admiration than 
with .wonder, as if a being of a superior order had 
dropped from another sphere to awe the world with the 
majesty of her appearance. We can conceive nothing 
grander. . . . She embodied to our imagination the 
fables of mythology, of the heroic and deified mortals 
of older time. . . . She was tragedy personified." 
During the latter years of her professional life, how- 
ever, she became unwieldy in person, and stagey, heavy, 



and monotonous in style; when she appeared for the 
last time in 181 7, as Lady Randolph, no spark of that 
superlative genius, over which Hazlitt rhapsodised, lit up 
the performance.^ 

Wonderful stories are told of her power over the 
spectators. Macready relates that when she played 
Aspasia in Tamburlaine, after seeing her lover strangled 
before her eyes, so terrible was her agony as she fell 
lifeless upon the stage, that the audience believed she 
was really dead, and only the assurances of the manager 
could pacify them. One night Charles Young was play- 
ing Beverley to her Mrs. Beverley in The Gamester, and 
in the great scene was so overwhelmed by her pathos 
that he could not speak. Unto the last she received the 
homage of the great; even the Duke of Wellington 
attended her receptions, and carriages were drawn up 
before her door nearly all day long. 

At Covent Garden, on October 6th, 18 14, her 
successor to the robe of Melpomene, Miss O'Neill, 
from Dublin, made her first appearance in London as 
Juliet, and at once achieved an enormous success. 
Macready, in his Reminiscences , tells us of her artless 
unconsciousness, her freedom from affectation, her fervid 
Italian passion in the balcony scene, and adds, "Through- 
out my whole experience, hers was the only representa- 
tion of Juliet I have ever seen." Hazlitt writes : ** Her 
highest effort, perhaps, was in portraying tremulous joy, 
a rapture bordering on frenzy, an inspiration of delight, 
portentous of sudden and fearful disaster. We never 
remember to have been more delighted by her acting 
than when we had seen her in Isabella, at the return of 
Biron, clasp him in wild rapture, forgetting her dreadful 

' See Macread/s Reminiscences, 


condition,^ gaze on him with eyes lit up with strange 
fire, and reply to his question by laughter in which 
horror and transport mingled." In tenderness and 
pathos she is said to have equalled Mrs. Siddons in her 
early days; but she had never the ideality, never rose 
to the sublimity of that marvellous actress in pure 
tragedy. Her stage career was very short; in 1819 
she married Sir William Wrixon Beecher, and retired 
from the stage. 

In that same year the beautiful Maria Foote, then 
only sixteen, was introduced to the London public on 
these boards, as Amanthis in The Child of Nature^ but 
did not create any particular impression. It was not 
until she brought her breach of promise case against 
** Pea Green " Hayne that she became the rage. Miss 
Foote seems to have been rather a very excellent 
amateur than an actress ; it was said of her that she 
danced and sang more like a highly accomplished lady 
than a professional. Mrs. Bancroft has given us some 
very interesting glimpses of the once popular favourite 
in her last days, in On and Off the Stage. " I was never 
a great actress," she used to say, " though people thought 
me fascinating, and I suppose I was." And no doubt it 
was that innate fascination in which lay the secret of 
her charm. She was the original Virginia in Vtrginius^ 
and Macready highly commends her performance of the 
character. As everyone knows, she married the eccentric 
Lord Petersham, afterwards Earl of Harrington. 

On September i6th, 18 16, William Charles Macready 
made his first bow to a London audience upon these 
boards as Orestes in Ambrose Philipss Distressed 
Mother. Though well received, he created no sensa- 

^ Biron is Isabella's husband, but, believing him dead, she has married 


tion, and his progress in public favour was not rapid, 
for he had two formidable rivals in the theatre, Charles 
Young and Charles Kemble, who divided the principal 
tragic parts between them, and Macready was for some 
years relegated to a series of melodramatic heroes, 
such as Gambia in The Slavey and Rob Roy, varied 
by repulsive villains, such as Pescara in Shiel's Apostate^ 
and Wallenberg in Maturin's Manuel. 

In less than a year after Macready 's d6but, on June 
29th, 18 17, John Philip Kemble bade farewell to the 
footlights in his greatest character, Coriolanus. And 
never did he play the part more grandly. '*As he 
approached the last act," writes Mr. Fitzgerald, in his 
book on the Kembles, "a gloom seemed to settle down 
on the audience ; and when at the end he came slowly 
forward to make his address, he was greeted with a 
shout like thunder of 'No farewell!' It was long 
before he could obtain silence, or could control his feel- 
ings sufficiently to speak. At last he faltered out, * I 
have now appeared before you for the last time : this 
night closes my professional life.* At this a tremendous 
tumult broke out, with cries of ' No, no !' ... At the 
end he withdrew with a long and lingering gaze, just as 
Garrick had done." Unlike Mrs. Siddons, he retained 
all his grandeur to the last, and seems to have retired in 
the ripe autumn of his powers. A grand dinner was 
given in his honour, at which Lord Holland took the 
chair, and the Duke of Bedford, the Marquis of Lans- 
downe, and others of the highest nobility, together with 
the most eminent men connected with literature and art, 
were present. Indeed, not even Garrick left the stage 
with such ^clat as attended the retirement of "the 
noblest Roman of them all."^ 

* For a full appreciation of Kemble's acting, see pp. 14S-9. 


Yet, notwithstanding the magnificent companies he 
gathered about him, the Kemble management was far 
from satisfactory in its relations to art. The hugeness of 
the theatre in time rendered the acting, even of Mrs. 
Siddons, coarse and stilted ; all the resources of the 
house were chiefly lavished upon spectacles, such as 
Bltu Beard, with its gorgeous show and real elephants. 
But for this, Sheridan's reckless management at Drury 
Lane was chiefly responsible ; where, as I have previously 
said, the author of the School for Scandal engaged per- 
forming dogs, or anything that would draw a tasteless, 
ignorant public, indifferent to everything save sensation 
and raree-show, and Covent Garden in self-defence was 
compelled to follow his lead or play to empty benches. 

John Kemble, on his retirement, made over his share 
of the Covent Garden patent to his brother Charles, 
most inimitable of Mercutios, Mirabels, Petruchios, 
Doricourts, most perfect of light comedians. Differences 
soon arose between Charles Kemble and Henry Harris, 
the son of Colman's old partner, who was the principal 
shareholder ; this quarrel at length led to litigation and 
a Chancery suit. 

The disagreement between the partners was ultimately 
settled by a compromise, and Harris retired, upon 
Kemble and the other shareholders undertaking to pay 
for the theatre the monstrous rental of ;^ 12,500 per 
annum. A committee of management was formed, and, 
as is usual under such circumstances, made a terrible 
fiasco ; Young, Miss Stephens, and Liston seceded and 
went over to the other house, which, under Elliston, 
was already plethoric with talent. So Drury Lane 
became the fashion, and Covent Garden was literally 
a desert. In 1823, Macready followed his old associates. 
And these defections were brought about to save, all 


told, about ;^20 a week. Failure was the inevitable 
result of such mistakes ; the committee was bankrupt, 
and Charles Kemble undertook the sole direction of the 

King John, with appropriate scenery and dresses, 
revived in 1823, was the earliest of the archaeological 
Shakespearian revivals, and initiated a new departure in 
theatrical art. When Dance endeavoured to persuade 
John Kemble to dress his Roman characters a little 
more in accordance with antiquity, he replied that he 
did not wish to be taken for an antiquary. Planch^, 
who arranged the revival of King John^ had similar 
prejudices to contend against. Farley wanted to know, 
if all the money was spent upon Shakespeare, what was 
he to do for his Easter piece? And when the actors 
were shown the peculiar pot-shaped helmets they had to 
wear, they declared the audience would roar at them. 
"And so they did," writes Planch6, ''but it waS with 

The curious caprices of the public's moral judgment 
in this country were well exemplified in 1825 by the 
different receptions accorded to Kean, at Drury Lane, 
after his crim. con. trial over Alderman Cox's wife, 
and that given to Miss Foote after her action for breach 
of promise against '* Pea Green " Hayne. While the 
former was hooted off the stage, the latter attracted 
the largest audience ever assembled within the walls 
of that theatre ; seats were taken weeks in advance, 
guineas were paid for places in the orchestra, and the 
total receipts amounted to ;^900 i6j. The actress's 
appearance as Letitia Hardy was greeted with waving 
of hats and handkerchiefs and hysterical sobs from the 
ladies, while every point that could in any way be 
twisted into an allusion to her recent experiences was 


greeted with bursts of acclamation. Undoubtedly Maria 
Foote was more sinned against than sinning,^ but so 
was Kean, though in a less degree. 

Charles Kemble was neither a judicious nor a fortunate 
manager,^ and by the year 1829 the affairs of the theatre 
were in such a disastrous condition that the bailiffs were 
in possession for taxes. Inevitable ruin seemed to stare 
the hapless lessee in the face, when his daughter Fanny, 
then only in her seventeenth year, stepped into the 
breach, appeared as Juliet, and redeemed the fortunes of 
the house. 

It had got abroad that, as the young lady was not 
intended for the stage, it was an act of heroic self- 
sacrifice ; and as she was likewise very beautiful, the 
public flocked in their thousands, and the critics went 
into raptures over her Juliet, Euphrasia, Belvidera, Mrs. 
Beverley. But Miss Kemble, notwithstanding the over- 
flowing houses she drew, which enabled her father in 
the one season to pay off ;^ 13,000 of his debts, was not 
a genius; she had no true sympathy with her art, and 
was chiefly conspicuous, like Macready, after her short- 
lived triumph, for casting scorn and contempt upon 
everything and everybody connected with it. 

^ When scarcely seventeen, she had been seduced by Colonel Berkeley, 
afterwards Earl Fitzhardinge, under a promise of marriage, and lived 
under his protection for five years. Joseph Hayne, of Burdrop Park, a 
sporting cad, a great patron of prize-fighters, ignorant of this circumstance, 
made her an offer of marriage. Berkeley was despicable enough to betray 
to him the secret of his liaison with the lady, and even hinted that it still 
continued, which was a falsehood. Thereupon Hayne broke off the 
marriage. Soon afterwards, however, he renewed the engagement The 
bridal day was fixed ; the morning came, but no bridegroom. His friends 
had spirited him away into the country, and kept him there by force. 
When he got away from them, he fixed the day for the second time, and 
Miss Foote gave up her profession, sold her wardrobe, and for the second 
time her ^a/i^/ failed to put in an appearance. The jury awarded ;£3,ooo. 

^ Some idea of the state of affairs may be gathered from the fact that 
between May 17th and July 22nd 11,000 orders were issued. 


In May, 1832, Laporte, who is better known by his 
connection with the opera-house, became manager of 
Covent Garden, and on the 30th of that month, Charles 
Young, the most successful actor of the Kemble school, 
took his farewell of the stage. Although almost ex- 
clusively a tragedian of the heavy order, Fanny Kemble 
tells us, in her Records of a Girlhoody that he had no 
tragic mental power, but a perception and a passion 
for humour, and that he constantly indulged in private 
in ludicrous stories, personal mimicry, admirable imita- 
tions of national accent, a power of grimace that equalled 
Grimaldi s, and the most irresistible comical way of 
resuming in the midst of the broadest buffoonery the 
stately dignity of his own natural countenance, voice, 
and manner. 

I think, however, Mrs. Butler has scarcely done 
Young justice; After he played lago to Kean's Othello 
at Drury Lane in 1822, even the great Edmund shrank 
from comparison. " I have never seen Young act," he 
said. '* Everyone has said he could not hold a farthing 
rushlight to me, but he can. He w an actor, and though 
I flatter myself he could not act Othello as I do, yet 

what chance should I have in lago after his d d 

musical voice. Tell him he has made as great a hit in 
lago as ever I did in Othello." From 1822 until his 
retirement. Young never played for less than ;^50 a 
night, as high a sum as Kean ever received. When, in 
i%d&, Julius Casar was played at Covent Garden with 
John Kemble as Brutus, Charles Kemble as Marc 
Antony, and Young as Cassius, the success of the last 
was second to neither of his great rivals. 

The year after Young bade adieu to the footlights, 
Covent Garden was the scene of one of the most notable, 
and at the same time saddest, of theatrical farewells. 


On March 23rd, 1833, Edmund Kean and his son 
Charles stood together for the first time upon the 
London stage, as Othello and lago.^ 

The house was crammed to suffocation. Brandy had 
long since shattered the reputation, the genius, and the 
health of the great actor. He had been very ill through- 
out the winter, and was utterly unfit to sustain the 
fatigue and excitement of such a night ; but he went 
through the part, dying as he went, until he came to the 
" farewell," in which in the old days he used to stir the 
very souls of the spectators; he broke down on the 
words ''Othello's occupation's gone!" Then, gasping 

for breath, he began, '* Be sure thou prove " but, 

unable to proceed, he fell upon his son's shoulder, 
moaning, " I am dying — speak to them for me." And 
so the curtain descended upon him for ever. 

In that same year, 1833, Covent Garden passed under 
the management of Bunn, who was already lessee of 
Drury Lane. After two years he resigned in favour 
of Osbaldiston, of transpontine fame, who, although 
he engaged Charles Kemble and Macready and an 
excellent company, endeavoured to attract the public 
by reduced prices, always a fatal step in London 
theatres, and the usual disastrous result followed the 

The stages of the patent houses had been sinking 
lower and lower in public estimation since the retirement 
of John Kemble, and the downfall of EUiston at Drury 
Lane ; an utter indifference to theatrical amusements, 

^ Edmund Kean was very bitter against Charles for having taken to 
the stage against his strict prohibition, but a reconciliation had taken 
place between father and son several years previously, when the elder 
Kean acted for Charles's benefit at Glasgow in October, 1828, the former 
playing Brutus, the latter, Titus, in Howard Payne's tragedy Brutus; or, 
the Fall of Tarquin. 


similar to that which marked the closing years of the 
seventeenth century,^ infected the public. 

The situation is graphically described in one of 
Wilson s Nodes Antbrosiana. Says Christopher North 
to Tickler, ''The drama, I fear, is in a bad way in 
London, Tim, and if so, it cannot be very flourishing 
in the provinces. Mr. Mathews acknowledges* that 
fashion is fatal to it. * I meet young gentlemen now,' 
says he, * who formerly used to think it almost a crime 
not to go to the theatre ; but they now ask, " Where- 
abouts is Covent Garden Theatre ? " although the same 
people would faint away if it were thought they had not 
been to the Italian Opera. If they are asked whether 
they have seen Kean or not lately, they will say, " Kean 
— Kean ? No ; where does he act ? I have not been 
there these three years." Formerly it was the fashion to 
go to the theatre ; but now a lady cannot show her face 
at table next day, and say she has been to the theatre. 
If they are asked whether they have been at Covent 
Garden or Drury Lane, they say, " Oh dear no ; I never 
go there, it is too low !"...! remember the time when 
it was no shame to go to see the legitimate drama. It 
was the fashion to go and see Miss O'Neill yi?r a season, 
and Mr. Kean /or a season; if they were real and sincere 
admirers of those actors they would have followed them ; 
but we found the theatres at which they acted dropped 
down from ;^6oo to ;^200.' " Some of Mathews' utter- 
ances may have been tinged by sarcasm, but they were 
perfectly correct in the main. 

Years before this was written, Scott, when it was 

^ See p. 52. 

^ Mathews, among other leading members of the profession, appeared 
before the Committee on Sir James Graham's Bill to give evidence as to the 
state of the drama. 


mooted that he should write for the stage, says in one of 
his letters (1819): — 

'* I do not think the character of the audience in London 
is such that one could have the least pleasure in pleasing 
them. One half come to prosecute their debaucheries, 
so openly that it would degrade a bagnio ; another set 
to snooze off their beef-steaks and port wine ; a third are 
critics of the fourth column of the newspaper ; fashion, 
wit, or literature there is not, and, on the whole, I would 
far rather write verses for mine honest friend Punch and 
his audience. The only thing that could tempt me to be 
so silly, would be to assist a friend in such a degrading 
task, who was to have the whole profit and shame of it" 
/ How much of this state of things was due to the 
public and how much to the managers, it would be 
difficult to say ; but I think it will be evident to every 
one who has read these pages that personal extravagance, 
. blundering, and a lack of business capacity was at the 
^ bottom of many of the failures I have recorded. 

It was Osbaldiston who introduced the last of the 
English classical tragediennes. Miss Helen Faucit, to 
the London public. Her first appearance upon the stage 
was at Richmond in 1833, when she was only thirteen. 
In that charming series of articles which appeared in 
Blackwood several years ago, and has since been 
republished, on " Some of Shakespeare's Female 
Characters," she has thus prettily described how she 
came to be an actress. 

" One hot afternoon my sister and myself, finding it 
yet too sunny to walk down to the river — we had to pass 
the theatre (in Richmond by the Thames) on the way — 
took refuge in a cool place to rest awhile. On the stage 
was a flight of steps and a balcony, left standing, no 
doubt, after rehearsal, or prepared for that of the next 


day. After sitting on the steps for a while, my sister 
exclaimed, * Why, this might do for Romeo and Juliet^s 
balcony. Go up, birdie, and I will be your Romeo.' 
Upon this, amid much laughter and with no little stum- 
bling over the words, we went through the balcony scene, 
I being prompter. ... My sister and I went away to 
the river, leaving the shadowy gloom of the stage as we 
found it. To our surprise and consternation, we learned 
some time after that there had been a listener. When 
our friends arrived some days later, the lessee told them 
that having occasion to go from the dwelling-house to 
his private box, he heard voices, listened, and remained 
during the time of our merry rehearsal. He spoke in 
such warm terms of the Juliet s voice, its adaptability to 
the character, her figure — I was tall for my age — and so 
forth, that in the end he prevailed on my friends to let 
me make a trial on his stage. To this, at my then very 
tender age, they were loth to consent. But I was to be 
announced simply as a young lady — her first appearance. 
At the worst a failure would not matter ; and, at any 
rate, the experiment would show whether I had gifts or 
not in that direction. Thus did a little frolic prove to be 
the turning-point of my life." 

Three years after her appearance at Richmond, she 
appeared at Covent Garden as Julia in The Hunchback^ 
with such success that the manager offered her a three 
years' engagement. Miss Faucit was thereafter the 
original Pauline in The Lady of LyonSy in which she 
made her first great impression. Her range of characters 
was very wide. She Was a famous Juliet, a fine Lady 
Macbeth, and a celebrated Rosalind. The writer of 
these pages saw her play the last-named part only when 
the freshness and spontaneity of youth had long de- 
parted, at one of her last appearances, at the Haymarket, 


but its noble, subtle intellectuality rendered it a living 
oommentary upon the text of Shakespeare ; in its perfect 
refinement, its minute touches, its delicate elaboration, 
its supreme finish, it formed a remarkable contrast 
between the old school and the new. 

What a splendid eulogy is that of De Quincey uppn 
her Antigone, which she played here in 1845, and through 
the provinces, and at Dublin as well. But in London, 
Sophocles' immortal tragedy, though illustrated by 
Mendelssohn's music, was only un succes (festime. 
**Then, suddenly — oh heavens, what a revelation of 
beauty ! — forth stepped, walking in brightness, the most 
faultless of Grecian marbles, Miss Helen Fauci t, as 
Antigone. What perfection of Athenian sculpture — the 
noble figure, the lovely arms, the fluent drapery! What 
an unveiling of the statuesque ! Is it Hebe ? Is it 
Aurora ? Is it a goddess that moves before us ? Perfect 
she is in form, perfect in attitude. It flattered ones 
patriotic feelings to see this noble young countrywoman, 
realising so exquisitely and restoring to our imagination 
the noblest of Grecian girls." ** It is hard to say," wrote 
Alison, " whether her Rosalind is the more charming, or 
her Lady Teazle the most fascinating, her Belvidera the 
more moving, or her Juliet the more heart-rending." 

One of the last great efforts to bring back to Covent 
Garden something of its ancient glory was the Macready 
management, which commenced on September 30th, 
1837, with a splendid revival of The Winters Tale, 
and a fine company, including Phelps, Harley, Elton, 
James Anderson (his first appearance in London), Miss 
Faucit, Miss Huddart, Miss Taylor, a delightful comedy 
actress, etc. Between the opening night and Christmas, 
in addition to The Winters Tale, Hamlet, Othello, The 
Bridal (an alteration of The Maids Tragedy), Werner, 


Macbethy and several legitimate comedies were produced, 
and entailed a loss of ;^3,ocx) in two months. 

After Christmas, the pantomime was preceded by a 
revival oi King Lear^ from the text; then came Bulwer's 
Lady of LyonSy which proved a trump card, though only 
after it had been played some little time. Coriolanus fol- 
lowed ; but though mounted in the most perfect manner, 
failed to attract, and was played on one occasion to ;^55. 

The next season opened with a company forty-six in 
number, the very pick of the profession. Coriolanus 
was performed on the first night, with Vandenhoff in the 
title r61e. A wonderful revival of The Tempest followed, 
with Macready as Prospero ; George Bennett, Caliban ; 
Helen Faucit, Miranda; Phelps, Antonio; Anderson, 
Ferdinand. This was a decided success, and for fifty- 
five nights the receipts averaged ;^2 30 a night 

There is a very significant passage in James Ander- 
son's memoirs. *' Had the manager only followed the 
advice of his officers, it might have gone one hundred 
nights more to like receipts. But no, he would never 
give the public what it wanted, but only what he liked ; 
this he considered consistent with his pledges to give 
novelty and variety. ... He had a temper and will 
peculiar to himself; he would manage the theatre in 
his own way, and that was how he came to lose his 
money. Instead of running The Tempest nightly to 
fine houses, he chose to revive a dull old piece called 
The Royal Oaky which we played to empty benches." 

Henry V.y grandly cast, was the last of Macready 's 
Shakespearian revivals at Covent Garden, and in the 
July of 1839 he retired, a heavy loser. 

Madame Vestris was the next candidate for this 
crown of thorns, and gathered about her an admirable 
company — Harley, the Keeleys, Mrs. Nisbett, Charles 


Mathews, Anderson, etc. Lovers Labour's Lost was her 
opening piece, September 30th, 1839. A blunder 
marred the inauguration. Madame closed the shilling 
gallery ; the offended deities of the high Olympus filled 
the lower gallery and pit to overflowing on the first 
night, and hooted and yelled and damned the play, 
which would otherwise have proved successful. Light 
pieces from the Olympic and opera were then tried ; but 
the success of the season was Sheridan Knowles s Love, 
with Anderson as Huon, and Ellen Tree as the Countess. 
It ran fifty nights to large audiences, and then unfor- 
tunately had to be withdrawn in consequence of Miss 
Tree having made other engagements. Leigh Hunts 
Legend of Florence^ in which " the fair Ellen " is said 
to have played divinely as Ginevra, fell flat. 

An event worth noting in the early part of 1840 was 
the production of Romeo and Juliet^ according to the 
text of Shakespeare, doubtless for the first time since 
the Commonwealth period, for Miss Jane Mordaunt, 
Mrs. Nisbett's sister, to appear as the heroine ; but she 
made no impression. 

It was in this season that Charles Kemble returned 
to the stage for a few nights **at Her Majesty's com- 
mand," and played to greater houses than he had been 
ever able to draw in his younger days. ** In Don Felix, 
Charles Surface, and Benedick, he was incomparably 
fine,'* says Mr. Anderson, *'but more especially so in 
Mercutio. In this part I had a better chance of watch- 
ing his acting, as I played Romeo to him, and I will say 
truthfully that I never saw, and shall never see again, 
anything in comedy acting so superlatively fine as his 
Mercutio. He was at this time considerably over 
seventy years of age, but acted like a man of forty." ^ 

^ George VandenhofF, in his Leaves from an Actor's Note-Book^ tells a 
good story illustrative of Charles Kemble's powers ; Vandenhoff played 


The season came to a close on May 29th with The 
Merry Wives of Windsor. " I much fear," to again 
quote Mr. Andersons personal experiences, ''that, not- 
withstanding all the wonderful endeavours to deserve 
success, there was a heavy loss at the treasury. . . . 
Under Madame's management, nothing was in any way 
slighted or neglected. Even the most trifling piece 
produced was given with earnest care and expense." 

The next season opened with The Merry Wives of 
Windsor; followed by a revival of Beaumont and 
Fletcher s comedy, The Spanish Curate, and a new play 
of Knowles s ; . but nothing drew until Boucicault s 
London Assurance was produced in March, 1841. It 
ran sixty-nine nights, and ended the season, when, 
Madame being about £()00 short of a rental of as many 
thousands, the proprietors, who by their greed had done 
much to ruin their own property, closed the doors 
against her. 

The dramatic annals of Covent Garden virtually ended 
with the Vestris management. Charles Kemble again 
opened the theatre in 1842 to bring out his daughter, 
Adelaide, the singer, a great artiste, as Norma. Then 
Bunn once more ventured upon the speculation. But 
both seasons were very brief 

In the following year the Anti-Corn Law League 
opened the house as a bazaar. In 1844-6, Julliens 
famous concerts and bals masquh were given there, and 
in 1847, after undergoing considerable alterations, the 

Mercutio at Covent Garden, when the last of the Kembles had retired. 
Next day, in the green-room, after complimenting the young man upon his 
performance, Mr. Kemble offered to give him a few hints ; he was then 
nearly seventy years of age, and was dressed at the time in his ordinary 
street attire, but he gave the Queen Mab speech with a grace and beauty 
such as the young actor had never conceived, reducing him to despair at his 
own crude efforts. 


Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, was converted into 
the Royal "Italian Ojpera." Delafield, the entrepreneur, 
spent £^o,ooo in adapting the theatre to the new style 
of entertainment, and in two years lost ;^6o,ooo besides. 
In 1850, Mr. Gye became lessee, and held that position 
with varying fortunes until 1856. On the 4th of March 
in that year, at the close of a bal masqtU given by 
Wizard Anderson, the old home of the Kembles was 
again destroyed by fire. 

Some account of the present theatre and its annals 
as an opera house will be found at the end of the next 

Having thus brought this imperfect sketch of the 
great patent theatres to a conclusion, it may be useful 
to take a retrospective glance at the various phases 
through which the actor s art passed during the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries, or rather from Betterton to the 
retirement of Macready, and add a few notes upon the 
drama of the same period. 

When we remember the very decided Gallic tastes of 
the King and his courtiers, among whom were numbered 
Killigrew and Davenant, the patentees of the two 
theatres of the time, it cannot be doubted that the 
Restoration actors modelled their style upon that of the 
French school. Betterton accompanied Davenant to 
Paris to study the arrangements of the theatres, and 
must have seen the great Baron act, and ChampmesM, 
and Dumesnil, and knowing the royal preference, would 
certainly have profited thereby. When he returned to 
London he gave hints to Elizabeth Barry, though she 
had probably already been trained in the French method 
by one who was well acquainted with it, her lover, 
Rochester. An ideal grandeur and a magnificent declam- 
ation were the distinguishing features of French classic 


tragedy, and in the great French artistes just mentioned 
these were combined with a power and intensity that 
rendered the artificial natural. I believe that the acting 
of Betterton and his associates was of this order. 

But with this noble actor, the glories, the very soul of 
the school, departed ; even Barton Booth seems to have 
fallen short of the splendid powers of his prototype and 
master, Betterton, though Aaron Hill finely said of him, 
" the blind might have seen him in his voice, and the 
deaf have heard him in his visage." After Booth, turgid 
declamation, rant without passion, a stilted utterance 
that disdained nature, the very dry bones and dust of 
tradition, were all that survived ; mediocrity reigned 
supreme, and tragedy was represented by such conven- 
tional actors as Ryan, Boheme, Mills, Delane, and Quin, 
until the coming of David Garrick. Writing of the first 
time he saw this great genius act, Richard Cumberland 
says : ** It seemed as if a whole century had been swept 
over in the transition of a single scene ; old things were 
done away, and a new order at once brought forward, 
bright and luminous, and clearly destined to expel the 
barbarism and bigotry of a tasteless age, too long 
attached to prejudices of custom, and superstitiously 
devoted to the illusions of imposing declamation." 

And Cumberland's was but the echo of universal 
opinion. Garrick was a phenomenal actor; without 
any previous apprenticeship, preparation or drudgery, 
at a remote end of the town which had hitherto been 
as unknown to fashion as the wilds of Africa, without 
preliminary puff of any kind, he took the whole play- 
going public by storm. There is no parallel to this 
in theatrical history. From Richard III. to Abel 
Drugger, from King Lear to Don Felix, from Macbeth 
to Bayes, his tragic force, his keen sense of humour, his 


marvellous genius carried all before it. Yet he did not 
quite obliterate the old artificial style. ** Even Mrs. 
Gibber/* Cumberland says, " in a high-pitched key sang 
or recitatived her speeches like a French actress." 

Being inimitable, unapproachable, Garrick founded no 
school, left behind him no imitator — unless it were 
Henderson, whose early death gave John Kemble the 
lead in tragedy and brought back the artificial and 
declamatory style that reigned supreme until the advent 
of Edmund Kean. Both the actors last named formed 
schools ; one half the mediocrities spouted and paused 
and strutted, John Kembles in miniature ; the other half 
ranted in hoarse accents and rushed about the stage and 
fancied they were Keans. But the grandeur, the majesty 
with which the one invested certain characters, and those 
marvellous flashes of genius by which the other carried 
every spectator out of himself, in fine, the informing soul 
of each was absent in his imitators ; even Gharles Young, 
the finest representative of the Kemble cult, though he 
had something of the stately grace and dignity of the 
original, never knew those moments of inspiration, as 
when Kemble, in Goriolanus, dashed in among the flying 
soldiers as though he had indeed the strength and power 
to sweep a score of them before him like blades of 

Sir Walter Scott has exactly defined the limits of his 
genius in the following passage : — 

*'John Kemble certainly is a great artist. It is a 
pity he shows too much of his machinery. I wish he 
could be double-capped, as they say of watches ; but the 
fault of too much study certainly does not belong to 
many of his tribe. He is, I think, very great in those 
parts especially where character is tinged by some ac- 
quired and systematic habits, like those of the Stoic 


philosophy in Cato and Brutus, or of misanthropy in 
Penruddock ; but sudden turns and natural bursts of 
passion are not his forte, . . . 

*'He seems to me always to play best those characters 
in which there is a predominating tinge of some over- 
mastering passion, or acquired habit of acting and speak- 
ing, colouring the whole man. The patrician pride of 
Coriolanus, the stoicism of Brutus and Cato, the rapid 
and hurried vehemence of Hotspur, mark the class of 
characters I mean. But he fails where a ready and 
pliable yielding to the events and passions of life makes 
what may be termed a more natural personage. Accord- 
ingly, I think his Macbeth, Lear, and especially his 
Richard, inferior in spirit and truth. In Hamlet, the 
natural fixed melancholy of the prince places him within 
Kemble's range ; yet many delicate and sudden turns 
of passion slip through his fingers. He is a lordly 
vessel, goodly and magnificent when going large before 
the wind, but wanting the facility to go * ready about,' 
so that he is sometimes among the breakers before he 
can wear ship." 

Edmund Kean approached nearest to Garrick ; there 
was the same electrical passion, the same abandon in 
both ; but Kean had many tricks and mannerisms, and 
he had had years of practice in the provinces before he 
astounded a Drury Lane audience, while, as it has been 
already said, all his apparently spontaneous effects were 
the result of deep study. 

After Kean came Macready, a mannerist, lacking all 
enthusiasm for his art, nay, more, despising it ; yet by 
dint of dogged application and a naturally fine intel- 
lectual grasp developing into a noble actor. But Edmund 
Kean, '*the little man with a great soul," was really the 
last of the English tragedians, the last who could ** pluck 


out the heart of the mystery" of Shakespeare's great 
creations, the last who could soar into the regions of 
ideal passion and carry his spectators with him. 

Macready was the founder of the modern school, of 
which Irving is the present representative, though 
he had more of the ideal and was nearer to. the demi- 
gods than any of his followers. Yet for all that he was 
only a supremely fine melodramatic actor, as his greatest 
successes were not in Shakespeare or in the poetic 
drama, but in such plays as Virginius^ William Tell^ 
Richelieu, Werner. 

Tragic acting, indeed, began to decline with the tragic 
drama, and after Barton Booth, if not after Betterton, 
tragedians became phenomenal ; even Garrick's company 
did not possess a tragic actor of the first rank. Macklin 
was hard and harsh ; Thomas Sheridan was a stilted 
declaimer ; Mossop, a mouther and ranter of the most 
pronounced type; Reddish and John Palmer were good 
actors in many parts, but not in the first rank; and 
Smith, in tragedy, was the most mediocre of heroes. 
The ladies, however, well sustained the traditions of 
Ann Marshall, Mrs. Betterton, Mrs. Barry, and Mrs. 
Porter. Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Spranger Barry, Mrs. 
Gibber,^ Mrs. Yates, were tragic actresses of the highest 
order, and little inferior to these was that glorious 
comedienne, Peg Woffington, and, perhaps. Miss Younge. 

The strength of Garrick's companies, especially the 
later ones, lay in their comic talent, and this supremacy 
of comedy lasted till the end of the eighteenth and during 

^ Churchill pronounced a fine eulogy upon this great actress in the 

lines — 

" To melt the heart with sympathetic woe. 
Awake the sigh and teach the tear to flow, 
To put on Henry's wild distracted glare, 
And freeze the soul with horror and despair." 


the first years of the nineteenth century. Woodward, 
King, Smith, Parsons, Dodd, Weston, Edwin, Suett, 
Mathews, Liston, Bannister, Emery, Quick, Dowton, 
Elliston, Charles Kemble, Kitty Clive, Mrs. Abington, 
Dora Jordan, these were the perfection of comedians ,% 
each was a Garrick or a Siddons in comedy, and, indeed, 
Garrick himself was as great in comedy as in tragedy. 
How few names, not half a dozen, are inscribed upon 
the roll of Melpomene to balance this glowing record of 
the goddess of laughter. And many another name little 
inferior to those quoted might be added. 

That the dramatic art, which is always iii its highest 
vigour in the heroic ages of nations and wanes before 
the advance of the artifical conditions of life, had passed 
its meridian even in Garrick's days may be gathered 
from the fact that up to the time of the Triumvirate the 
public went to see the playy well acted all rounds as 
when Cibber, Booth, Wilks, Dogget, Mrs. Oldfield, etc., 
performed together and stood shoulder to shoulder in 
respective merit, and would have thought it very bad art 
for one to overshadow all the rest. It was Garrick who 
inaugurated the star system, for he was the first of a 
line of great actors who were a head and shoulders 
above their contemporaries ; and so for a hundred and 
fifty years the general public has been drawn, not by 
the excellence of a play or a company, but by the talent 
or popularity of one or two actors or actresses, tragic or 

Were it possible to recall out of Hades the Hamlet 
of Betterton, the Richard of Garrick, the Coriolanus of 
Kemble, the Othello of Kean, and the Virginius of 
Macready, the cultured playgoer would find it hard to 
determine which was the grandest performance ; but the 
votes of the many would be given en masse to Garrick, 


Kean, and Macready, to the first two for their universal- 
ity, to the last because he would be most en rapport 
with the spirit of the age, which is nothing if not real- 
istic. We are out of touch with the heroic, with 
enthusiasm, with passion, and the modern actor, to 
compromise with the Philistinism of his audience, en- 
deavours to render tragedy natural, that is, common- 
place, which is just about equal to a painter attempting > 
to render Raphael or Michael Angelo in unison with 

What is there of realism in Shakespeare's Macbeth ? 
The barbarous, half-savage Highlander of history has 
been transfigured by the poet into one of the great 
psychological studies of the world, his utterances are 
couched in the sublimest. poetry ; Macbeth might have 
thought all that Shakespeare has made him say, as any 
coarse and ignorant man might feel all the pangs of 
Othello, yet be without the power to give them utter- 
ance ; and it is this marvellous gift of the mighty 
dramatist to interpret and give a voice to the dumb soul 
of ordinary humanity, through which he appeals to all 
humanity, cultured or ignorant. Nevertheless, like all 
tragic geniuses from ^Eschylus and Sophocles, he is an 
idealist and can never be adequately rendered by the 
familiar realism of recent actors. 

Figuratively, the English stage has been developed by 
successive waves of idealism and realism, the latter ever 
the stronger, with a strength increasing with each 
successive ebb and flow. In comedy the artificial 
brilliancy, the perfect finish, the subtle minutiae of the 
characters of Congreve, Farquhar, and Vanbrugh, 
with modification ever tending to the familiar, extended 
from Wilks to Charles Kemble and expired with the 


During the second half of the eighteenth century, in 
consequence of the failure of dramatic genius, the actor 
held the stage without a rival, supreme over the 
dramatist; and the reign of the scene-painter and the 
mechanist was still afar off. Tragedy died with Otway, 
and there is not a work of the eighteenth century that 
has the ring of true passion in it : Congreve's Mourning 
Bride, of which I have made previous mention ; Rowe s 
Jane Shore (17 13), stilted and artificial, though not with- 
out merit; Youngs Revenge (1721), which, in the part 
of Zanga, has afforded splendid opportunities to most of 
our great tragedians ; Moore's Gamester (1753), power- 
ful in conception, but most bald and prosaic in execution, 
about which cling memories of some of the finest efforts 
of Mrs. Siddons and Miss O'Neill, are the only works 
worth mentioning. Any number of dull, stilted plays 
were produced under the name of tragedies, several 
written by men of great ability, such as Dr. Johnson's 
Irene and James Thomson's Sophonisba, but all have 
long since sunk into oblivion. Among them, however, 
was one that was hailed as an almost more than Shake- 
spearian effort — Homes tragedy of Douglas, in which 
both Spranger Barry's wife and Mrs. Siddons acted so 
wonderfully as Lady Randolph. One need not be so 
very old to remember the day when every schoolboy 
learned to spout the famous speech, ^* My name is 
Norval," and in Scotland it shared with Rob Roy the 
distinction of being regarded as the national play, and 
woe to the actor who was not perfect in the text, for 
every little boy in the gallery knew it by heart. The 
story of the enthusiastic Scot who at one of the earlier 
representations of the piece at Covent Garden rose up 
in the pit, and, addressing the audience, exclaimed, 
" Where's your Wully Shakespeare the noo .'* " is well 


known. It is extremely difficult for modern taste to 
discover in what the greatness of Douglas consisted. 

The great successes achieved by the Booths, the 
Garricks, and the Kembles were in the plays of 
Shakespeare, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher. But what 
garbled versions they were of those great writers, more 
especially of Shakespeare. Every dramatic manipulator, 
from Dry den and Davenant to Nahum Tate and 
Theophilus Gibber, thought he could improve upon ** the 
sweet Swan of Avon"; the consequence was that not a 
single play of his was given without impertinent interpola- 
tions and monstrous alterations, amounting in some to an 
absolute change of plot and motive. Indeed, it is only 
within the memory of the present generation that 
Garrick s version of Romeo and Juliet and Gibber s 
Richard III. have given place to Shakespeare's ; and 
Macready first restored the Fool to King Lear. 

A comparison between the dramatic literature of the 
first three decades and the last seventy years of the 
eighteenth century is startling in its contrast. Wycherley, 
Vanbrugh, Gongreve, Farquhar, Gibber, Steele were all 
plying their pens during the first period, and such a 
galaxy of comedy writers producing in the same era has 
no parallel in our own or in any other history. The great 
work of the second period is The School for Scandal ; but 
fine as is the wit of Sheridan, Gongreve s is finer, and 
were it not for the screen scene, which is probably the 
finest situation in the whole range of comedy, the work 
would be little more than a clever plagiary upon " Tom 
Jones," Wycherley's Plain Dealer, and Moliere's Le 
Misanthrope. The Rivals, previously produced at 
Govent Garden, was damned on the first night, January 
'17th, 1775. Sheridan held it was through the incompe- 
tence of the actor who personated Sir Lucius. Yet it 


was finely cast, with Shuter, Woodward, Lewis, and 
Quick in the principal parts. Certain alterations, how- 
ever, being made, the first night's judgment was speedily 
reversed by contemporaries, as it has been by posterity. 

A few comedies that preceded Sheridan's great works 
must not go unmentioned. Colman the elder s Jealous 
Wife (1761), and The Clandestine Marriage (1766), an 
admirable work; Arthur Murphy's The Way to keep Him 
(1760), and All in the Wrong (1761), two spirited 
comedies; and above all, Goldsmith's delightful She 
Stoops to Conquer^ given to Covent Garden in 1773. A 
reference to this work renders necessary some account of 
the school of comedy it was destined to displace. 

A new species of comedy called the sentimental had 
become the fashion during the first half of the eighteenth 
century. Steele's three comedies. The Tender Husband 
(1703), The Lying Lover (1704), and The Consciotis 
Lovers (1721), were the earliest specimens of this form 
of composition ; but they found no imitators until Hugh 
Kelly produced his False Delicacy (1768), which, though 
far from being so contemptible a piece of work as many 
critics have represented it -to be, is overcharged with 
superfine writing. Cumberland followed in Kelly's steps 
with melodramatic additions, while in the hands of 
Holcroft and Mrs. Inchbald the style degenerated into 
the domestic drama of the last century. So great was 
the success of False Delicacy that it ran eight successive 
nights, and would have gone longer, but Garrick had 
pledged himself to the public that no new piece should 
run beyond that limit. It was, however, performed 
twenty times afterwards during the season. 

The comedies of Colman the younger were popular 
not only in their day, but certain of them, such as John 
Bull, The Poor Gentleman — both written for Covent 


Garden — and The Heir at Law (for the Haymarket) 
were favourites within these five-and-twenty years. They 
were essentially of the sentimental school, stilted in the 
serious scenes, and though humorous, almost destitute of 
wit. Nevertheless these plays are remarkable, as, in 
conjunction with those of Holcroft, Cumberland, and Mrs. 
Inchbald, they mark a new era in stage literature ; 
hitherto kings and nobles only had filled the tragic scene, 
and the beaux and belles the comic, but the authors just 
named, infected by the spirit of the French Revolution, 
chose most of their heroes and heroines from among the 
people, and their comic characters from a class that is 
almost entirely absent from the works of Congreve and 
even Sheridan. Colman was the creator of that terrible 
bore, the virtuous peasant, who always carried his entire 
wardrobe in a coloured pocket-handkerchief at the end of 
a stick, who was always fighting in defence of the hapless 
village maiden, eternally spouting platitudes, was as eager 
as the stage sailor to bestow his last shilling upon anyone 
in want, and always expressed joy by stamping about 
and singing ** Ri fol, riddi iddi ido," a conventional 
figure that was driven from the stage by the burlesques 
of H. J. Byron. One of the most notable of Colman*s 
pieces was the once famous Mountaineers ^ written for 
Covent Garden (1793); the mad lover, Octavian, was a 
favourite part with Kemble, Kean, Elliston, and many of 
their successors ; indeed, the last words that Edmund 
Kean ever uttered were from the dying speech of 
Octavian, '* Farewell, Flo — Floranthe." 

Mrs. Inchbald was one of the dramatic luminaries of 
the Bow Street house during the last two decades of the 
eighteenth century, but no audience could now endure 
any one of her works. Yet Suck Things Are, a most 
wretched agglomeration of twaddle, nightly crowded the 


theatre to the ceiling ; hundreds were turned away from 
the doors, and the lucky authoress realised ;^900 by it. 
Wives as they Were and Maids as they Are^ Lovers' 
Vows, Everyone has his Fault, kept the stage for many 
years ; but the sentiment is mawkish and overstrained, 
the comic scenes, though occasionally sprightly, cannot 
boast of much wit, while the characters are of the most 
conventional type. Mrs. Cowley s bright comedy, The 
Belles Stratagem (1780), which was given a new lease 
of life by Irvings and Ellen Terry's admirable acting, 
and most of Holcroft's works, including the only one of 
his that has kept the stage, The Road to Ruin (1792), 
were produced at Covent Garden. Several of Cumber- 
land s plays first saw the footlights at that house, but his 
best-known works were given to Drury Lane ; notably. 
The Wheel of Fortune (1795), which, in the misanthrope 
Penruddock, furnished John Kemble with one of his 
finest impersonations; a few will remember Samuel 
Phelps's admirable rendering of this part. 

A dramatic novelty that originated in the second half 
of the eighteenth century was the musical farce and 
operatic drama, for although The Beggar's Opera was the 
progenitor of all, it did not find imitators for many years. 
Of these musical pieces, Charles Dibdin's Quaker, The 
Padlock, T/ie Waterman, and Isaac Bickerstaff s delicious 
Love in a Village, with its charming comedy and delight- 
ful airs, and his Lionel and Clarissa, now quite forgotten, 
may be taken as types. These and others in the same 
style, Inkle and Yarico, Rosina, No Song no Supper, 
The Miller and his Men, etc., etc., with music by some 
of our best composers, were among the most popular 
of English dramatic entertainments. 

During the nineteenth century, the great theatres 
added little to the literature of the country. Such as it 


is, Covent Garden had the lions share. Here were 
produced some of Morton's best works : Town and 
Country^ in which the character of Plastic may claim to 
be the first of that long series of gentlemanly villains, of 
which Captain Hawkesly in Still Waters Run De^ is 
the most pronounced development ; The School of 
Reform^ in which the elder Emery played so magnifi- 
cently as Tyke ; and Speed the Plough, performed not 
so many years ago, were among the number. For this 
house O'Keefe wrote his Wild Oats, George Colman 
the younger The Poor Gentleman (1800) zxA John Bull 
(1803), with Fawcett as Job Thornberry ; Cooke, Pere- 
grine ; Blanchard, Sir Simon ; Lewis, Tom Shuffleton ; 
Johnstone, Dennis ; Emery, Dan. 

In tragedy, Shiel's Evadne and The Apostate, which, 
though containing passages of real poetry, owed their 
success almost entirely to the grand acting of Miss 
O'Neill, Charles Young, and Macready, are the only 
tragic productions that need be mentioned previous to 
the rise of Sheridan Knowles. Virginius, the first of 
Knowles's plays produced in London, was brought out 
at Covent Garden, on May 17th, 1820; the title r61e 
was probably Macready s grandest effort, and the tragedy 
was received with the greatest enthusiasm. 

Knowles was hailed as a Shakespeare Redivivus, and 
it must be admitted that to an audience surfeited with 
the sham classicism of such plays as Ambrose Phillips's 
Distressed Mother, which even Macready had selected 
to make his London d^but in, there was a reality of 
flesh and blood about the new writer's treatment of the 
pathetic old Roman story, marvellously refreshing. 
Virginius is a powerful play with fine dramatic situa- 
tions, and, well acted, must always command the tears 
and sympathies of the spectators ; but we have only 


to compare it with John Webster's grand old tragedy, 
Appius and Virginia, to perceive how much the modern 
author falls short of the capabilities of the subject. 
With the exception of two or three isolated passages, 
the blank verse is little better than inverted and dis- 
torted prose. In those days, when even the educated 
were ignorant of Elizabethan dramatic literature, Knowles 
was accounted to be an imitator of that school ; but his 
knowledge of the great masters of his art was probably 
confined to the acted plays of Shakespeare and Mas- 
singer, and his model was the latter. 

The Hunchback, with Fanny Kemble, then in the 
height of her fame, as the heroine, was also contributed 
to Covent Garden; her acting as Julia is said to have 
drawn more tears than any stage representation since 
Kemble and Siddons appeared in The Stranger. 
Knowles himself played Master Walter ; but, burly in 
form, below the middle height, and pedantic in utter- 
ance, he could have been but a poor representative of his 
hero ; Charles Kemble, the original Sir Thomas Clifford, 
said afterwards that the only person who did not under- 
stand the author was the gentleman who played Master 
Walter. With an obscure plot that Knowles himself 
could never quite satisfactorily explain, no very strong 
situations, and almost invariably played to empty 
benches, it kept the stage only because Julia was a 
showy part — that every lady used to be ambitious to act. 
The Love Chase was rendered a passing success by Mrs. 
Nisbett s brilliant performance of Constance ; but it is 
utterly artificial. Macready gave life to William Tell 
by his splendid acting, but the play virtually died with 
him. A showy but somewhat stilted heroine, a good 
stage part, and two excellent dramatic situations kept 
The Wife alive for many years. The rest of his plays 
passed away with the original representatives. 


Bulwer Lytton s dramas were far more successful. 
His first dramatic essay, The Lady of Lyons ^ in spite of 
its stilted diction and improbable plot, has drawn more 
money into theatrical treasuries in town and country than 
any other play of the pre-sensational period. The cause 
is not far to seek ; it lies in the vividness of the action, 
without which the literary merit of a play counts for 
nothing. Within a few days of its production it was 
entitled The Adventurer, and it was not until a run of 
nine nights had assured him of success that the author 
would permit his name to appear upon the bills. 
Richelieu, a much better work, less, bombastic, and with 
really fine stage situations, quickly followed, and met 
with equal favour, though Macready was doubtful of it 
up to the last moment. 

Money, produced at the Haymarket in 1840, was 
another of Bulwer s successes. It was got up regardless 
of cost ; D'Orsay was called in to suggest the costumes, 
and the tailor of the " Last of the Dandies " made them. 
The cast was a record. Macready and Helen Faucit, 
Evelyn and Clara ; Walter Lacy, Blount ; Webster, 
Graves ; Mrs. Glover, Lady Franklin ; Wrench, Dudley 
Smooth ; Miss Horton, Georgina ; Strickland, Sir John 
Vesey. The comedy has been revived again and again 
for long runs up to within a very recent period, the last 
revival being, I think, at the Garrick. But its char- 
acters are out of date, and it has now probably been 
consigned to limbo. 

Serjeant Talfourd*s noble but coldly classical play Ion 
preceded Bulwer s in date. Byron s Werner, Sardana- 
palus, and The Foscari were brought out at Drury Lane, 
and afforded Macready some of his greatest triumphs, 
and Marino Faliero at Coverit Garden. There were 
The Patricians Daughter and other poetical plays by 


Westland Marston — all dead and gone, but Boucicault's 
clever hotchpotch London Assurance was performed 
only a few years ago at the Criterion, with Wyndham 
as Dazzle. 

After the early forties, dramatic literature was buried 
under an avalanche of melodrama ; Lovel's The JVif^s 
Secret^ Love's Sacrifice^ and a few others of the quasi- 
poetical school occasionally came to the front, but they 
have all passed into oblivion, and it is very improbable 
they will ever be drawn out of it In the course of the 
following pages I shall have to make frequent references 
to the new school, originated by Pinero and Jones, which 
has once more raised the drama to the dignity of litera- 
ture ; but any general survey of the dramatic authors of 
our own time would only give rise to controversy. 



The Great Haymarket Theatre— A sketch of the history of the Italian 
Opera and Opera Ballet in London, and some account of the famous 
Singers and Dancers who have appeared between 1705 and 1903 

TAKING the West End theatres in chronological 
order, the great theatre in the Haymarket must 
precede the little one. It was the strained relations 
between Christopher Rich and the leading members of 
his company that first suggested to Sir John Van- 
brugh the project of building a new theatre in the 
Haymarket, **for which," says Gibber, **he raised a 
subscription of thirty persons of quality, at one hundred 
pounds each, in consideration whereof every subscriber 
for his own life was to be admitted to whatever entertain- 
ments should be publicly performed there, without further 
payment for his entrance. Of this theatre I saw the 
first stone laid, on which 'was inscribed *The Little 
Whig,' in honour to a lady of extraordinary beauty,^ then 
the celebrated toast and pride of that party. In the year 
1705, when this house was finished, Betterton and his 
co-partners dissolved their own agreement, and threw 
themselves under the direction of Sir John Vanbrugh 
and Mr. Gongreve." And Golley goes on to tell us, in 
his diffuse manner, that the actors depended upon the 
genius of those two famous writers and the splendour of 
the new house to draw the public; "but," he adds, 
** almost every proper quality and convenience of a good 

' Lady Sunderland. 


theatre had been sacrificed or neglected to show the 
spectator a vast triumphal piece of architecture. For 
what could their vast columns, their gilded cornices, their 
immoderate high roofs avail, when scarcely one word in 
two could be distinctly heard in it ? Nor had it then the 
form it now stands in, which necessity two or three years 
afterwards reduced it to. At the first opening, the flat 
ceiling, that is now over the orchestra, was then a 
semi -oval arch, that sprung fifteen feet higher from 
above the cornice. Th§ ceiling over the pit, too, was 
still more raised, being one level line from the highest 
back part of the upper gallery to the front of the stage; 
the front boxes were a continual semicircle to the bare 
walls of the house on each side. This extraordinary and 
superfluous «pace occasioned such an undulation from the 
voice of every actor, that generally what they said 
sounded like the gabbling of so many people in the lofty 
aisles of a cathedral. The tone of a trumpet, or the 
swell of an eunuch's holding note, it is true, might be 
sweetened by it ; but the articulate sounds of a speaking 
voice were drowned by the hollow reverberations of one 
word upon another. To this inconvenience why might 
we not add that of its situation } for at that time it had 
not the advantage of the large city, which has since been 
built in its neighbourhood ; those costly spaces of Han- 
over, Grosvenor, and Cavendish Squares, with the many 
great and adjacent streets about them, were then but so 
many green fields of pasture, from whence they could 
draw little or no sustenance unless it were that of a milk 
diet The City, the Inns of Court, and the middle part 
of the town, which were the most constant support of a 
theatre, and chiefly to be relied on, were now too far out 
of the reach of an easy walk, and coach hire is often too 
hard a tax upon the pit and gallery." 


It was in 1705 that the first opera in the Italian style, 
with recitatives, was performed in this country at Drury 
Lane ; it was called Arsino'i, Queen of Cyprus^ written 
by Motteaux; it so hit the fashionable taste that the 
lessees decided to open the Queen's Theatre, as the 
new house was christened (April 9th, 1705), in honour 
of the reigning sovereign, with one of these exotics, 
a translation from the Italian, entitled The Triumph of 
Love. It proved an utter failure, being performed only 
three nights, after which the jnanager had to turn to 
the drama, and in October Vanbrugh produced his 
admirable comedy The Confederacy. But whether it 
was on account of the bad acoustic properties of the 
house, or from other causes, comedy was little more 
successful than opera, and neither The Confederacy, nor 
two or three other works from the same pen, drew the 
public to the Queen's. Congreve quickly retired from 
the unfortunate speculation, and Sir John Vanbrugh was 
glad to let the house to a Mr. Owen Swiney, Rich's 
factotum and man of business, who was to pay ;^5 for 
every acting day, ^d not more than ;^700 for the entire 
year. Swiney commenced operations in October, 1 706 ; 
and business improved under the new manager, who 
brought some fresh blood into the corps dramatique. 

The union of the two companies under Colonel Brett, 
however,^ and the growing taste for Italian singers and 
Italian music, brought about an arrangement with 
Swiney, by which the Queens Theatre was to be 
devoted entirely to opera, while the actors were ordered 
to return to Drury Lane, there to remain under the 
patentees, Her Majesty's only company of comedians. 
The reader of the previous chapters will already have 
learned how this happy arrangement came to an end, 

^ See p. 56. 


how another revolt of the actors brought a number 
of them back to the Haymarket, where on certain nights 
they varied the operatic with the dramatic, considerable 
alterations having been made in the house to adapt it. 
for the speaking voice. 

There would be little interest in following all the 
complications between actors and managers that occurred 
at this period. By-and-by, Collier, the new patentee 
of Drury Lane, became also the lessee of the Queen's ; 
after which the actors went back to their old quarters at 
Drury Lane, and the Haymarket was finally delivered 
over to the lyric drama. And with this arrangement 
really commences the history of Italian opera in 

Every reader of the Spectator will remember how 
felicitously Addison^ has ridiculed the absurdities and 
crudities of the opera, as it existed in his time. Some 
great star or stars were brought from Italy to sustain 
the principal parts, while the minor characters were 
sustained by English singers ; so the lover pleaded to 
his mistress in a tongue unknown to her, and the lady 
replied with equal fervour in rhythmical cadences of 
which he understood not a syllable ; heroes addressed 
their soldiers or their slaves in the liquid accents of 
Rome or Naples, and were answered in the dialect 
of Cockayne.* Mrs. Tofts, a very fine singer, was the 
first of our English prime donne ; associated with her 

^ Much of Addison's virulence against Italian opera, however, resulted 
from the failure of his own effort at the lyric drama, Rosamond^ with music 
by Thomas Clayton, described as " a jargon of sounds," brought out at the 
Queen's in 1707. 

* According to Dr. Bumey {^History of Music\ the music of these early 
operas was neither dramatic, passionate, pathetic, nor graceful. The first 
violin accompaniment was printed over the voice part, and if the words 
indicated sorrow it was marked slow^ if they implied pleasure it was marked 


was Margarite L'Epine, and Valentini, the first of 
those male soprani who so long enchanted English ears. 
There were several native singers of note ; Leveredge, 
a famous basso, and Hughes, a tenor. The absurdities 
of such a mongrel dialect were too transparent, and, 
to use Addison's words, *' the audience grew tired of 
understanding half the opera, and therefore, to ease 
themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, have 
so ordered it at present that the whole opera is per- 
formed in an unknown tongue." 

The last of those hybrid productions was Pyrrhus and 
Demetrius, 1708,^ and in that same year arrived the 
famous Nicolini, a name familiar to every reader of the 
Spectator. Two years later, George Frederick Handel, 
George the Firsts Chapel Master at Hanover, was 
invited over to England ; Aaron Hill, the author of 
several plays, who was then director of the Queen s 
Theatre under Collier, engaged the great German com- 
poser to write an opera upon a subject taken frorh Tasso, 
and on February 24th, 171 1, Handel's first opera, 
Rinaldo, was produced at that house, and ran fifteen 
nights. Rinaldoy though the earliest, was one of the 
finest works that Handel gave to the stage ; among the 
music are to be found the two beautiful and well-known 
airs ** Cara Sposa" and *• Lascia ch'io pianga." Elabor- 
ate scenic effects were introduced into these operas, 
much to the scorn of the Spectator. "How would the 
wits of King Charles's time have laughed to have seen 
Nicolini exposed to a tempest in robes of ermine, and 
sailing in an open boat upon a sea of pasteboard. 
What a field of raillery would they have been let into, 
had they been entertained with painted dragons spitting 

^ The first opera produced in this country wholly in Italian was Buonon- 
cini's Almakide, 171a 


wildfire, enchanted chariots drawn by Flanders mares, 
and real cascades in artificial landskips. . . . Rinaldo is 
filled with thunder and lightning, illuminations and fire- 

Another opera, called Hydaspes^ afforded excellent fun 
for Mr. Spectator. In this Nicolini was thrown into an 
amphitheatre to be devoured by a lion, to whom he 
appealed in the minor key, softly whispering in the 
feline ear the story of his love ; then defying the beast 
in bravura passages, telling him he may tear his bosom 
but cannot touch his heart, and after cajoling the 
monarch of the forest into listening to these dulcet 
strains, Hydaspes took a mean advantage of his tender- 
ness and throttled him. 

To the powers of Nicolini the 7a//^r gives ungrudging 
praise. " Nicolini sets off the character he bears in 
every opera by his action as much as he does the words 
of it by his voice ; every limb and finger contributes to 
the part he acts, insomuch that a deaf man might go 
along with him in the sense of it. There is scarcely a 
beautiful posture in an old statue which he does not 
plant himself in, as the different circumstances of the 
story give occasion for it ; he performs the most ordi- 
nary action in a manner suitable to the greatness of his 
character, and shows the prince even in the giving of a 
letter or the despatch of a letter." Nicolini's salary, 
however, was only 800 guineas a year. Yet so early as 
171 1 we hear of Swiney, bankrupt through excess of 
expenses over receipts, having to fly the country. 

About the same time as Rinaldo, an opera by Gas- 
parini, founded upon Shakespeare's Hamlet, and entitled 
Ambletto, was brought out, the overture of which must 
have been very remarkable for such a subject, consist- 
ing, as it did, of four movements closing with 2. jig ! 


Handel's most formidable rival was Buononcini. He 
very equally divided the town with the German master, 
although he was infinitely inferior to him. 

Swift has immortalised the Italian in his witty epi- 
gram : — 

'' Some say that Signor Buononcini 

Compared to Handel's a mere ninny ; 

While others say that to him Handel 

Is hardly fit to hold a candle. 

Strange, that such difference should be 

'Twixt tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee ! " 

The Duchess of Marlborough, not Sarah, however, 
thought so much of Buononcini s talents, that she settled 
;^500 a year upon him. 

Handel composed no fewer than thirty-five Italian 
operas, some of the airs from which he afterwards intro- 
duced into his oratorios. "Whatever pleasure," says 
Mr. Hogarth, in his Memoirs of the Opera, " they must 
have given to the audiences of that age, they would fail 
to do so now ; and, indeed, their performance would be 
impracticable. The music was written for a class of 
voices, the male soprano, which no longer exists, and 
for these no performers could now be found. A 
series of recitatives and airs, with only an occasional 
duet, and a concluding chorus of the slightest kind, 
would appear meagre and dull to ears accustomed to 
the brilliant concerted pieces and finales of the modern 
stage ; and Handels accompaniments would seem thin 
and poor amidst the richness and variety of the modem 
orchestra." In 1785, when the celebrated Madame Mara 
made her first appearance at the King's Theatre, 
Handels operas were already regarded as old-fashioned 
and out of date. 

It was not only between the composers that the taste 


of the town was divided, for each singer had his or her 
partisans, who would scruple at nothing for the glorifica- 
tion of the favourite and the mortification of her rival. 
This spirit manifested itself very strongly at the time 
when Mrs. Tofts and Margarite L'Epine were the 
dive of the day, but it never rose to such a height as 
when the fashionable world was at war over the merits 
of the celebrated Cuzzoni and Faustina. No one was 
too great to join in this absurd partisanship, even Sir 
Robert Walpole was infected by it, being a supporter of 
Faustina. His lady, however, attempted to hold the 
balance between the two, and one day, when her hus- 
band was away, invited both Faustina and Cuzzoni to 
dinner. But no truce, however brief, could exist be- 
tween these bitter enemies; at table they began by 
bickering, went on to quarrelling, and from wordy war 
proceeded to blows and scratches, playing havoc with 
the china. On another occasion. Lady Walpole engaged 
both the dive to sing at a concert at her house. Fearing 
another hneute^ she dared not allow them to meet ; so 
while one was performing she lured the other to a 
remote apartment, under the pretence of showing her 
something curious; and when it came to her turn to 
entertain the company, her ladyship had to resort to the 
same ruse with her rival. 

The Cuzzoni party was headed by the Countess of 
Pembroke, whose followers used to hoot whenever 
Faustina appeared upon the stage. The London Journal 
for June loth, 1727, says: "A great disturbance hap- 
pened at the opera, occasioned by the partisans of the 
two celebrated rival ladies, Cuzzoni and Faustina. The 
contention was at first only carried on by hissing on one 
side and clapping on the other ; but proceeded at length 
to the melodious use of catcalls and other accompani- 


ments, which manifested the zeal and politeness of that 
illustrious assembly." 

At length this continuous turmoil became so unendurable 
that the managers of the King's Theatre — the name had 
been changed at the accession of George I. — determined 
to rid themselves of one of these firebrands. Having 
discovered that Lady Pembroke had extracted an oath 
from Cuzzoni that she would never take one shilling less 
than Faustina, they, at the commencement of a new 
season, offered her one sovereign less than her rival, and 
by this means so disgusted the lady that she quitted the 

In the year 1720 a Royal Academy of Music was 
established at the King's Theatre, for which Handel 
was engaged to write a series of operas. The affair was 
a terrible failure, ;^ 15,000 was lost by the end of 
the year, and subscribers were so backward in paying 
up, that legal proceedings were threatened against them 
in the public papers. This brought about a new mode 
of subscription, which, with certain modifications, has 
continued to the present day. Tickets were issued for a 
season of fifty nights on payment of ten guineas down, 
an engagement to pay five more on February ist, and 
the remaining five on May ist. Within seven years the 
whole of the capital, ;^5o,ooo, was lost, and the Academy 
ceased to exist in 1728. 

One of the great features of the Opera House now 
was the gorgeous masquerades arranged by Heidegger, 
who was bandmaster to George I., and prided himself 
on being the ugliest man in Europe; these, in splendour, 
it was said, far surpassed even those of Italy. In 1724, 
however, in consequence of a sermon preached by the 
Bishop of London, these balls were prohibited, and it 
W£LS not until past the middle of the century that they 


were revived. It is worth noting that it was in the 
King's Theatre that HandeFs Esther, the first oratorio 
ever heard in England, was given, and in the next year, 
1732, his exquisite Acis and Galatea was produced at the 
same house. 

All other operatic events, however, at this period were 
thrown into the shade by the appearance, in 1734, of the 
marvellous Farinelli. Dr. Burney says that without the 
assistance of gesture or graceful attitude, he astonished 
and enchanted his hearers by the force, extent, and 
mellifluous tones of his voice, even when he had nothing 
to execute or express. No intervals were too close, 
too wide, too rapid for his execution. Composers were 
unable to write passages difficult enough to display the 
full extent .of his powers. On his arrival in England, at 
a private rehearsal given in the apartments of Cuzzoni, 
the manager of the opera observed that the band did not 
follow him, but were all gaping with wonder. He de- 
sired them to be attentive, but they confessed they were 
unable to keep pace with the singer, and were not only 
disabled, but overwhelmed by his talent. He could 
hold on and swell a note to such a surpassing length, 
that people could scarcely be persuaded but that it was 
continued by some hidden wind instrument while he 
took breath. He seems, however, to have been partly 
indebted for this power to the formation of his lungs, 
which were capable of holding an immense volume of 
air. His voice was said to have had the power of tran- 
qiiillising the half-insane Ferdinand VI. ; and an enthu- 
siastic Englishwoman exclaimed blasphemously, after 
hearing him, ** One God, one Farinelli." 

Farinelli received a salary of ;^ 15,000 a year and a 
clear benefit, which was worth another ;^2,ooo. Yet, 
so capricious is fashion, that two years afterwards he 
sang to a ;^35 house. 


Senesino was another famous male soprano, who sang 
in Handel's operas in 1726. After him came Caffarelli, 
of whom a curious story is told. He had been a pupil 
under the great Porpora ; during five years the master 
made him sing only scales ; at the end of that time the 
pupil asked when he was to be taught to sing. ** You 
have nothing more to learn/* answered Porpora, **you 
are now the greatest singer in the world." And so he 
proved himself to be. 

As we have noted in a previous chapter, Porpora 
directed an Italian opera company at Lincoln's Inn 
Fields in 1733 and 1734, after which he went over to 
the King s Theatre for a time while Handel, in partner- 
ship with Heidegger, took opera to Covent Garden. 

Among the singers who interpreted Handel's operas 
was Anastasia Robinson, the unacknowledged wife of 
that eccentric genius the Earl of Peterborough, a pure 
and noble woman whose whole life was one self-sacrifice, 
and whom George Meredith has taken as the heroine of 
one of his novels. 

In 1 74 1 the King's Theatre was under the manage- 
ment of the Earl of Middlesex. From the retirement 
of Handel from the operatic stage in 1740 until the 
advent of Gluck with his Orfeo, in 1770, the art of 
musical composition made little progress, and the only 
event that claims notice in this brief rSsumS was the 
production, in 1762, of Dr. Arne's Artaxerxes, an opera 
which until far into the last century was regarded as 
our one classical work. It is now merely curious as 
a specimen of a dead and gone school of weak and 
florid music, which, even at the date of this production, 
was rapidly dying out in its birthplace, Italy. 

Writing in 1747, Horace Walpole gives a curious and 
sarcastic account of an opera by Vaneschi, called Fetonte. 


"It is in what they call the French manner ; but about 
as like it as my lady Pomfret's hash of plural persons 
and singular verbs was to Italian. They sing to jigs 
and dance to church music. Phaeton is run away with 
by horses that go at a foot's pace, like the Electress's 
coach, with such long traces that the postilion was in 
one street and the coachman in another. Then comes 
Jupiter with a farthing candle to light a squib and a 
half; and that they call fireworks. Reginello, the first 
man, is so old and so tall that he seems to have been 
growing ever since the invention of opera," etc. 

Sheridan, who without any tangible means seems to 
have been always able to enter into the most costly 
speculations, in partnership with Harris of Covent 
Garden, in 1778, gave ;^22,ooo for the opera patent, 
and undertook it at a rental of ;^ 1,200 a year. Harris 
very soon retired and Brinsley sold his interest to 
Taylor, who continued to be impresario until 1804. 

Sir John Vanbrughs theatre on the 17th of June, 
1789, was burned to the ground, at a loss of ;^73,ooo; 
set fire to, it is believed, by the leader of the orchestra, 
who had a grudge against Ravelli, the acting manager. 
The conflagration happened in the daytime, when the 
singers were at rehearsal, but no lives were lost. While 
the new house was in the course of erection, the company 
migrated to the Pantheon.^ 

^ The Pantheon in Oxford Street was built, in 1770, by Wyatt at a cost of 
;£6o,ooo for concerts, balls, and other amusements. It opened in 1772, being 
intended for a kind of winter Ranelagh. Horace Walpole highly eulogises 
in one of his letters the beauty of its decorations, the ceilings and panels of 
the ballroom being painted after the style of Raphael's loggias. Masquer- 
ades were given here, and in 1784, Lunardi's famous balloon was exhibited. 
It was fitted up as an opera house after the destruction of the King's Theatre. 
Curious to relate, in 1792, just after the company had vacated the Pantheon, 
it was burned to the ground. It was rebuilt on the old plan ; but in 181 1 
was reconstructed after the model of the great theatre at Milan, for the 


The exterior of the old King's Theatre, according to 
a print still extant, was unworthy of the architect of 
Blenheim : it was a dull, heavy building of red brick, 
roofed with black glazed tiles, and having a frontage 
only thirty-five feet in width ; with its three circular- 
headed doors and windows it looked more like a 
meeting-house than a theatre. And now let us turn 
to the interesting Musical Reminiscences of Lord Mount 
Edgcumbe for a picture of the old and new house, and 
of the old and new regime. Writing of the former he 
says : " The boxes were then much larger and more 
commodious than they are now. . . . The front was 
then occupied by open public boxes, or an amphitheatre 
(as it is called in French theatres), communicating with 
the pit Both of these were filled exclusively with the 
highest classes of society, all, without exception, in full 
dress, then universally worn. The audiences thus as- 
sembled were considered as indisputably presenting a 
finer spectacle than any other theatre in Europe, and 
absolutely astonished the foreign performers, to whom 
such a sight was entirely new. At the end of the 
performance the company of the pit and boxes repaired 
to the coffee-room, which was then the best assembly 
in London, private ones being rarely given on opera 
nights ; and all the first society was regularly to be seen 
there. Over the front box was the five-shilling gallery, 
then resorted to by respectable persons not in full dress ; 
and above that an upper gallery, to which the admission 
was three shillings. Subsequendy the house was en- 
circled with private boxes, yet still the prices remained 

performance of Italian comic operas. The stage was ninety feet deep and fifty- 
six wide, and the pit held 1,200 people. It was opened on February 25th, 
18 1 2, with Tom Dibdin's opera, The Cabtnety at opera prices. But the 
speculatioh failed, and two years afterwards scenery, fittings, all were sold 
off, and the licence was never again renewed. 


the same, and the pit preserved its respectability, and 
even grandeur, till the old house was burned down in 


" Formerly," he continues,^** every lady possessing an 
opera box considered it as much her home as her house, 
and was as sure to be found there, few missing any of the 
performances. If prevented from going, the loan of her 
box and the gratuitous use of the tickets was a favour 
always cheerfully offered and thankfully received, as a 
matter of course, without any idea of payment. Then, 
too, it was a favour to ask gentlemen to belong to a 
box, when subscribing to one was actually advantageous. 
Now no lady can propose to them to give her more than 
double the price of admission at the door, so that, having 
paid so exorbitantly, everyone is glad to be reimbursed 
at least a part of the great expense which she must 
often support alone. Boxes and tickets are therefore no 
longer given, they are let for what can be got ; for 
which traffic the circulating libraries afford an easy 
accommodation. Many, too, which are not taken for 
the season, are disposed of in the same manner, and 
are almost put up to auction, their price varying from 
three to eight or even ten guineas, according to the 
performance of the evening or other accidental circum- 

The foundation-stone of the second King s Theatre 
was laid by the Right Honourable John Hobart, Earl 
of Buckinghamshire, on April 3rd, 1790; the architect 
was Michael Novosielski, and the building was opened 
on the 26th of March, 1791, but only with a music and 
dancing licence, and no legal status could be obtained 
for the house until after the burning down of the 
Pantheon in the following year ; that place of amuse- 
ment having, while the company performed there, 


assumed the title of the King's Theatre, and appro- 
priated the patent. Mr. O'Reilly, the manager of the 
Oxford Street house, had contracted debts to the 
amount of ;^30,ooo, and .it was arranged by a com- 
mittee, over which the Prince of Wales presided, that 
these liabilities should be taken over by the share- 
holders of the new theatre in order to get back the 
original licence. This was a crushing burden to begin 
with, and sank more than one enterprising manager. 

During the three seasons that the new Drury Lane 
was building the company performed here,^ after which 
the house was given up entirely to opera. 

The great prime donne of the first twelve years of 
the new house were Mara, Banti, Grassini, and Mrs. 
Billington; while from 1804 to 1806 inclusive, Braham 
was a leading tenor. Lord Mount Edgcumbe, an 
unexceptionable judge, pronounced Banti to have been 
the most "delightful singer" he ever heard. She died 
at Bologna in 1806, and left her Jarynx, which was of 
extraordinary size, to be preserved in a bottle in the 
museum of that town. Mrs. Billington was a beautiful 
singer, but an indifferent actress. She had received a 
careful training in Italy, and her vocal powers were 
greatly appreciated there. Once, however, she nearly 
fell a victim to the superstition of the people. While 
singing at I^aples an eruption of Vesuvius burst forth; 
the Neapolitans, thinking it a judgment upon them 
for countenancing an English heretic, were about to 
spring upon the stage and seize her, when fortunately 
the eruption ceased and their fury melted into enthusi- 
astic applause. 

Mara retired in 1 794 ; Banti, as we have seen, died 

^ Dramatic performances had been frequently given in the old house. 
Spranger Barry opened it in 1766, etc. 


in 1806; the same year witnessed the last appearance 
of Grassini in England and the retirement of Mrs. 
Billington. The last-named lady took Mozart s Clemenza 
di Tito for her benefit. It was the first time the great 
composer s music was heard in London. The principal 
parts were sung by the bhiificiaire and Braham. But 
the Italians of the company neither understood nor 
relished the music, one of the concerted pieces being 
more difficult to study than half a dozen whole operas 
of the Italian school. So after a few repetitions this 
fine opera was laid aside and neglected. It had been 
produced by the suggestion of the Prince of Wales, 
who seems to have been the only Englishman at that 
time capable of appreciating Mozart's genius, and the 
score was supplied from his own library. The same 
season Braham quitted the Italian stage and devoted 
himself entirely to English music. Thus five of the 
constellations of the Opera House disappeared almost 

It was, however, in that same year, 1806, that Madame 
Catalani, who had already won golden opinions on the 
Continent, first appeared in London. Passing through 
Paris on her way to England, she sang before Napoleon, 
who was greatly delighted with her. " Where are you 
going," he demanded, ** that you wish to leave Paris ? " 
•'To London, sire," she replied. "You must remain in 
Paris," was the peremptory rejoinder. "You will be 
well paid and your talents better appreciated here; 10,000 
francs a year, two months* leave of absence. That is 
settled. Adieu." The lady, however, contrived to 
escape across the Channel and to fulfil her engagement. 
Her terms were 2,000 guineas for the season. But the 
next year she increased them to 5,000 guineas. The 
manager objected that it left him nothing for his other 



artists. **What do you want else when you have my 
wifes talent?" demanded her husband, Valabr^que. 
**She and four or five puppets {poupSes) are enough." 
And that was all the public got, and for a time it sufficed 
to crowd the theatre. Finally, her terms became so 
enormous that managers, especially when the public 
began to grow tired of " the four or five puppets," even 
with Madame, feared to incur the responsibility of en- 
gaging her. How history repeats itself. Does not this 
read like a reminiscence of a celebrated songstress of 
our own day ? Catalani left the Kings Theatre in 1813, 
and after that was heard chiefly at concerts. She gained 
by these entertainments ;^ 10,000 in one season of four 
months in London, and doubled that sum in a tour 
through the English provinces, Scotland, and Ireland. 
Yet even these sums are moderate when compared with 
Patti s earnings. 

Catalani herself seems to have been a simple-minded, 
good-natured creature, and more than one story is told 
of her charitable disposition. But her husband was a 
low-bred, avaricious fellow. He called her \{\s poule cToTy 
which she certainly was to him. Captain Gronow relates 
in his Reminiscences that when she was at Stowe, Vala- 
br^que sent in a bill to the Marquis of Buckingham for 
seventeen hundred pounds for seventeen songs his wife 
had sung in company, although she was on the footing 
of a guest. But he was usually left behind when she 
was invited to distinguished houses. She is described 
by contemporaries as being very beautiful, not a great 
actress, but making up for all deficiencies by the charm 
of her manner. Her voice, Captain Gronow says, ** was 
transcendent." But she appears to have preferred to 
astonish her audience by extraordinary feats of execu- 
tion, such as leaping two octaves at once, and by the 


most florid fioturi, rather than pleasing them by purity 
of style. These faults, as an inevitable consequence, 
increased with time. One of her favourite feats was 
to sing the " Non piu andrai " of Figaro, and by mere 
force of lungs and volume of voice to rise above all the 
brass of the orchestra. Her last appearance in opera 
took place in 1824, in Mayer's II Fanatico per la Musica; 
but she cut out everything that did not tend to the 
display of her bravura powers, and walked through 
the part without condescending to act. Each night the 
audience grew thinner, until she finally withdrew from 
the stage. Her last appearance in public was at Dublin 
in 1828. 

Between 1804 and 1807 a Mr. Goold was the manager 
of the King s Theatre. At his death, in the year last 
named, it again came into the hands of Taylor, to whom 
I have previously referred. Taylor was always in debt 
and difficulties, and, during the greater part of the time 
that he was director, lived within the King s Bench or 
its ** rules.'* *' How can you conduct the King s Theatre, 
perpetually in durance as you are "i " remarked a friend. 
"My dear fellow," replied the manager, "how could 
I possibly conduct it if I were at liberty ? I should be 
eaten up, sir — devoured. Here comes a dancer — * Mr. 
Taylor, I want such a dress ' ; another — * I want such 
and such ornaments.' One singer demands to sing a 
part different from the one allotted to him, another 
to have an addition to his appointments. No ; let me 
be shut up, and then they go to my secretary ; he, they 
know, cannot go beyond his line, but if they get at me — 
pshaw ! no man at large can manage that theatre ; and, 
in faith, no man who undertakes it ought to be at large." 

Taylor had a partner named Waters, who was Goold's 
executor ; between the two, as affairs grew worse, there 


were continual disagreements. At length Taylor closed 
the theatre. Waters tried to get possession, but Taylor s 
people resisted. Free fights were of constant occur- 
rence, until the former at length succeeded in forcing an 
entrance. This was in 1813. Waters carried on the 
management from 18 14 to 1820, when, overwhelmed 
by debt, he was compelled to retire. The house ^as 
then taken by Mr. Ebers, a bookseller, who gave to the 
world his experiences of its management in a volume 
entitled, Seven Years of the Kings Theatre. During 
that period he never lost a less sum than ;^3,ooo in a 
season, frequently considerably more. Thus, from its 
establishment in this country, we find that Italian opera, 
spite of the fashionable patronage .which had always 
been accorded it, was not only an unprofitable, but a 
ruinous speculation to all who undertook it. 

The following passages, however, extracted from a 
theatrical magazine of the period are very suggestive as 
to the cause of Mr. Ebers's failure, and are extremely im- 
portant as describing the style in which operas were put 
upon the stage of the King s Theatre in 1823 : — 

" It is with feelings of the liveliest indignation that we 
direct the attention of our readers to the continuance of 
disreputable abuses, which render this magnificent estab- 
lishment a living monument of national dishonour. 
When a foreigner views the imposing exterior of the 
opera-house, its numerous columns, its splendid piazzas, 
and its colossal dimensions, he reasonably expects that 
the interior will exhibit corresponding attractions, and 
hurries to the theatre buoyant with the hope of antici- 
pated delight. He pays his half-guinea, and is introduced 
into this fancied temple of elegance and grandeur. The 
filthy condition of the corridors, where the dirt of ages 
reposes in undisturbed tranquillity, secure from the lustra- 


tions of a scrubbing-brush, soon convinces our enthusiast 
that no lord of the vestibule protects the flowing train of 
a countess from plebeian pollution. He hurries on and 
fixes his gaze on that venerable specimen of the antique, 
the drop-curtain, whose faded hues and tarnished dingi- 
ness are only surpassed by the murky sails of a coal- 
lighten The indulgent spectator overlooks these glaring 
violations of common decency, and recollecting that the 
musical department is under the direction of a committee 
of noblemen of acknowledged taste and ample fortune, 
he makes sure that this union of talent and wealth will 
procure him the highest treat that ^ fanatico per musica 
can possibly desire. But here again he is doomed to 
disappointment ; his high-wrought expectations terminate 
in a mixed feeling of scorn, contempt, and indignation. 
This is no fanciful picture, but a feeble attempt at 
delineating the various emotions which a foreigner ex- 
periences at the wretched want of effective management 
in the Kings Theatre." The writer then goes on to 
animadvert upon the badness of the singers, the lack of 
variety in the operas produced, broken promises, and 
general incompetence. 

•A month or two afterwards the same journal comments 
very strongly upon the curtain being rung down and the 
lights put out in the middle of the ballet It might have 
been want of means to carry on the management pro- 
perly that was at the bottom of these terrible short- 
comings, but it was certainly hopeless to expect public 
patronage for such an ill-directed establishment. 

In 1818 the auditorium of the King's Theatre was 
reconstructed and modelled in the form in which many 
of us remember it, by Nash and Repton, who, in 1820, 
added the colonnades, the entire alteration costing 
;^50,ooo. The shape was horse-shoe ; in dimensions it 


was within a few feet of La Scala. Its length from the 
curtain to the back of the boxes was 102 feet; the 
extreme width, 75 feet ; the stage was 60 feet long and 
80 feet wide. The subscription to the new theatre was 
increased to sixty representations, and the charges to 
thirty guineas a seat. But during Catalani's engagement 
the price of a box to hold six was advanced from 180 
guineas to 300. 

Although the first two decades of the last century 
were not very remarkable for great singers, they were 
peculiarly rich in great works. Catalani introduced 
Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro^ being herself the original 
Susanna in London.^ In 181 1 the immortal composer's 
Cost fan tutte was heard for the first time, and received 
with unbounded delight. // Flauto Magico followed, but 
the company was inadequate to the interpretation of this 
difficult work, and it failed. The year 181 7 should be 
marked with a red letter in operatic annals, since it 
witnessed the production of the incomparable Don 
Giovanni^ brought out in the teeth of a strong cabal and 
immense difficulties. Its success was triumphant It 
was played twenty- three nights to overflowing houses, 
and restored the exhausted treasury to a flourishing con- 
dition. The original cast embraced Madame Camporese, 
Madame Fodor, Signors Crivelli, Ambrogetti,^ Naldi, 
and Agrisani. In the same year Madame Pasta, then a 
mere girl, no older than the century, made her d^but, but 

^ Madame Vestris sang the part here in 18 16, in the purest style of 
Italian vocalisation, it is said. 

« Ambrogetti was a great artiste ; being cast for the part of the Father 
in an operatic version of Mrs. Opie's Father and Daughter^ called Agnese, 
he studied in Bedlam every form of madness. But his acting was so 
terrible that the public could not endure it, and the opera failed through the 
very greatness of the performance. The realism that in our time has 
drawn crowds to see Drink and Resurrection was not appreciated a 
hundred years ago. 


seems to have given little indication of her future pre- 
eminent genius, and created no attention. With the 
appearance of Signor Garcia in 181 8 began the reign of 
Rossini, he introducing the Barbitre, the first opera of 
that composer heard in England. From 1821 to 1828, 
fourteen out of the thirty-four operas sung were by the 
great Italian maestro ; Mozart came next. Rossini 
visited London in 1824 to conduct his opera of Zelmtra. 
Madame Rossini, a singer of great eminence in Italy, 
sustained the principal part ; but, although she was still 
beautiful in person and grand in style, she was passie, 
and was coldly received It was her last appearance 
upon the stage. 

In 1825, Velluti, the last of the male soprani, appeared. 
Thirty years had elapsed since this class of voice had 
been heard by the English public. So strong were the 
prejudices entertained against the new singer that it was 
only after much hesitation that the management decided 
to permit his appearance. Lord Mount Edgcumbe 
describes the event : — 

" At the moment when he was expected to appear, the 
most profound silence reigned in one of the most crowded 
audiences I ever saw, broken on his entering by loud 
applauses of encouragement. The first note he uttered 
gave a shock of surprise, almost of disgust, to inex- 
perienced ears ; but his performance was listened to with 
attention and great applause throughout, with but few 
expressions of disapprobation, speedily suppressed. The 
opera he chose for his d^but was // Crociato in EgittOy by a 
German composer named Meyerbeer, till then unknown 
in this country. The music was quite of the new school, 
but not copied from Rossini ; it was original, odd, flighty, 
and might even be termed fantastic." 

Might not this be the mild criticism of an old gentle- 


man of a dozen years ago upon Wagner ? His lordship's 
remarks upon Rossini s works, in which he complains of 
the sudden change of motives, the absence of airs, and 
the noisy instrumentation, so different from the thin 
melodious operas of his youth, are equally suggestive. 
Rossini and Meyerbeer were to him what Wagner was 
to his grandchildren. 

Ebers's unfortunate seven years terminated in 1827, 
after which the house, at a rental of ;^8oo per annum, 
passed into the hands of Laporte and Laurent, who 
continued the management through good and evil fortune 
until 1842. At the accession of Victoria, the Kings 
Theatre was renamed Her Majesty's. 

From 1824 to 1846 was the golden age of opera in 
this country, if not for the impresariiy at least for the 
public, as between those two dates the lyric drama was 
interpreted by artists such as, perhaps, those of no 
other period in its history can compare. Pasta re- 
appeared in 1824, when she was at the height of those 
marvellous powers that rendered her the greatest lyric 
artist the world has ever heard. ** Pasta," says Hogarth, 
'* was what a musical performer ought to be, but is so very 
seldom — a complete impersonation of the character she 
assumed. We thought not of admiring the great vocalist; 
we even forgot that it was Pasta who stood before us 
while we were thrilled with horror by the frenzy of the 
desperate Medea, or wept for the sorrows of the love- 
lorn Nina" (Paiesellos Nina), After a long and, as it 
had been supposed, final retirement from the stage, she 
reappeared for one night in 1850 in selections from Anna 
Bullena. The melancholy scene is admirably pictured 
by Mr. Chorley. Her toilet was neglected, her hair 
absurdly dressed, as, indeed, was her whole figure. 
Among the audience was Rachel, who cruelly and 


openly ridiculed the whole performance, and Madame 
Viardot, then in the height of her fame, came to hear 
Pasta for the first time. ** She attempted the final mad 
scene of the opera, the most complicated and brilliant 
among the mad scenes on the modern stage, an example 
of vocal display till then unparalleled. By that time, 
tired, unprepared, in ruin as she was, she had rallied 
a little. When, on Anne Boleyn's hearing the coronation 
music for her rival, the heroine searches for her own 
crown upon her brow, Madame Pasta wildly turned 
in the direction of the festive sounds, the old irresistible 
charm broke out ; nay, even in the final song, with its 
roulades and its scales of shakes ascending by a semi- 
tone, the consummate vocalist and tragedian was able to 
combine form with meaning, the moment of the situation 
was indicated at least to the younger artist. 'You 
are right,' was Madame Viardot s quick and heartfelt 
response (her eyes full of tears) to a friend beside her. 
' You are right. It is like the Cenacolo of Da Vinci at 
Milan — a wreck of a picture, but the picture is the 
greatest in the world.* " 

Sontag came to London in 1828, but her Berlin (she 
was a Prussian by birth) and Paris idolaters had aroused 
such marvellous expectations in the English public that 
she was a disappointment. Gradually, however, a re- 
action took place, and ere the season was over she had 
become an established favourite. Upon her marriage 
with Count Rossi, a Piedmontese noble, she retired 
from the stage. The revolution of 1848 stripping him 
of his possessions, she again resumed her profession, 
reappearing at Her Majesty's during the seasons of 
1849-50; and, most curious to relate, although now a 
middle-aged woman, appealing to a new generation of 
opera-goers, and immediately following Jenny Lind, her 


second success was as brilliant as her first. Her style, 

like Catalani's, was excessively florid; she excelled in 

light opera. 

The year after Sontag's d6but, 1829, a yet greater 
artiste made her bow before an English public — Madame 
Malibran, the original Amina in this country. Some- 
one — Chorley, I think — has felicitously called her the 
Garrick of the Italian stage, to mark her great diversity 
of style as compared with Pasta, whom he calls the 
Siddons of opera. A romantic pathos hovers around 
the memory of this glorious artiste. Her history was a 
sad one : a harsh father (Garcia) in her childhood, an 
unhappy marriage with a man double her age in her 
girlhood, and then her early death at twenty-eight, just 
after she was united to De Begnis, the man of her 
choice. In private life she was as warm-hearted and 
generous as she was great in public. " Boundless as 
were Malibran's resources, keen as was her intelligence, 
dazzling as was her genius, she never produced a single 
type in opera for other women to adopt. She passed 
over the stage like a meteor, as an apparition of wonder 
rather than as one who, on her departure, left her 
mantle behind for others to take up and wear." 

Each season now brought forth a new prodigry. In 
1830 appeared Lablache, whose first part was Geronimo 
in // Matrimonio Segreto. '' Musical history," says 
Chorley, " contains no account of a bass singer so gifted 
by nature, so accomplished by art, so popular without 
measure or drawbacks, as Louis Lablache. His shoe 
was as big as a child's boat, one could have clad a child 
in one of his gloves," and yet, he goes on to say, that 
so perfectly artistic was he in dress and bearing that the 
spectator was never shocked by his abnormal size. 

Rubini created immense enthusiasm upon his appear- 


ance in 1831. The fascination of his voice was irresist- 
ible ; even his brother artistes would linger at the wings 
while he was singing, loth to lose a single note. The 
compass of his voice was marvellous ; he could begin on 
the high B flat without preparation, and hold on it for 
a considerable time. At Milan the people flocked in 
crowds to hear this wonderful effect, and never failed 
to encore it. One night, raising his eyes to heaven, 
extending his arms, inflating his chest, and opening his 
mouth, he endeavoured as usual to give forth the 
wonderful note. But B flat would not come. Greatly 
disconcerted, the tenor brought all the force of his 
splendid lungs into play and gave it forth with immense 
vigour. But he could feel that he had in some way 
injured himself. He went through the performance, 
however, as brilliantly as ever. When it was over 
he sent for a surgeon, who very soon discovered that he 
had broken his collar-bone — it had been unable to resist 
the tension of his lungs. ** Can a man go on singing 
with a broken clavicle?" he inquired. "Certainly," 
replied the doctor ; ** and if you take care not to lift any 
weight, you will experience no disagreeable effects." 
And he did go on singing for years afterwards. 

Tamburini appeared in 1832, Grisi in 1834, Persiani 
in 1838, and Mario in 1839. Out of this combination 
was formed the world-famous Puritani quartette, Rubini, 
Lablache, Tamburini, and Grisi ; such a one had never 
before been approached upon the lyric stage, and 
probably never will be again. In 1842 a noble artiste 
burst upon the town, Miss Adelaide Kemble, "the 
greatest English singer (though not the best of this 
century)," says Chorley, "a poetical and thoughtful 
artiste, whose name will never be lost as long as the art 
of dramatic singing is spoken of." He says that in 


Norma she could compare with Pasta, and could be 
preferred (apart from voice and person) to Grisi. "In 
comedy, her Susanna was good enough for any opera- 
house in Europe, no matter how high the standard." 

Tamburini's name is inextricably associated with what 
may be regarded as the last of the theatrical riots. The 
favourite baritone had been superseded by an inferior 
artiste named CoUetti, upon which his colleagues of the 
theatre organised a clique to compel his re-engagement, 
and enlisted upon their side the fashionable part of the 
audience. On Colletti s appearance he was saluted with 
a storm of hisses from the omnibus boxes, and shouts of 
"Tamburini!" Laporte appeared, but could not make 
himself heard. At length the noble occupants of one of 
the boxes, headed by a Prince of the Blood, still living, 
leaped upon the stage, the curtain fell, the invaders 
waving their hats, shouted " Victory! " and Laporte was 
obliged to give way. The affair is the subject of one of 
the Ingoldsby Legends, "The row in an omnibus box." 
At the death of Laporte, in 1842, Her Majesty s passed 
under the direction of Mr. Lumley, who had been con- 
cerned in the previous management. The event of 
his first season was the d^but of Ronconi, who, in the 
greatness of his acting, rivalled even Lablache, and that 
with a voice limited in compass, inferior in quality, and 
possessing little power of execution ; added to these 
drawbacks were a low stature and commonplace 
features. He was the original Rigoletto in London, 
Verdi was heard for the first time in this country in 
Emani, in 1845. People hardly knew what to make of 
the new style, and its reception was anything but 

Early in 1846 there rose a rumour that a new opera 
speculation was to be initiated at Covent Garden. A 


disagreement between Lumley and his conductor Costa, 
ended in all except one of "la vieille garde" — Grisi, 
Mario, Tamburini, Costa and Lablache — seceding from 
Her Majesty's, and opening, under Persiani's husband, 
the great dramatic house for opera. The one who alone 
remained true to the old theatre was the great basso. 

Never was such acrimony, such furious disputes, or 
such an unscrupulous paper war carried on between two 
rival establishments as marked the commencement of the 
operatic year of 1847. ^o\S\ houses appear to have 
suffered severely by the competition ; Madame Persiani 
was ill and unable to appear through the losses sustained 
by her husband. And Lumley seems to have been in 
litrie better plight, when the appearance of Jenny Lind 
suddenly raised his fortunes to the very pinnacle of 

Bunn had engaged "the Swedish Nightingale" in 
1845 ^o appear at Drury Lane. Lumley, however, 
protested that Her Majesty's was the only place in 
London at which she could make her d^but, and so in- 
duced her to sign another agreement. Bunn was offered 
;^2,ocx> to cancel his arrangement, which he refused ; 
but afterwards so terrified her by letters and paragraphs 
in the public papers, that she feared to set her foot on 
English ground. Late one night Lumley started for 
Vienna ; as ruin was close upon him, he was ready to 
undertake any obligation to get her over, and after 
binding himself to pay all damages^ that she might incur 
through her breach of faith with Bunn, at last succeeded 
in securing his prize. The contest between the three 
managements, for Covent Garden was backing up Drury 
Lane, raised the expectations of the public to fever heat. 

^ When the case was tried, Bunn, who put his damages at ;^ 10,000, was 
awarded by the jury ;£2,5oo. 


A new complication arose when the Lord Chamberlain 
refused to license Roberto II Diavalo, in which she had 
arranged to appear. This difficulty, however, was over- 
come, and the eventful night at length arrived. 

** Rarely," says Lumley, in his Reminiscences, "was 
ever seen such excitement at Her Majesty's Theatre. 
The crowd at the doors might have led to a suspicion of 
an dmeute in a capital less orderly than London ; and the 
struggle for entrance was violent beyond precedent — so 
violent, indeed, that the phrase * a Jenny Lind crush ' 
became a proverbial expression. Nor was this crowd 
the result of a hasty gathering. From an early hour in 
the afternoon, the Haymarket became so thronged as to 
be impassable to pedestrians. As to the file of carriages, 
it seemed as interminable as it was dense." Describing 
the performance, Chorley says: "She appeared as Alice 
in Robert (it was the first representation of Meyerbeer's 
opera in Italian in this country), an appearance not to be 
risked by any singer the least nervous. The girl, 
dragged hastily down the stage in the midst of a crowd, 
has at once, and when out of breath, to begin on an 
accented note, without time to think or look around her. 
I have never seen anyone so composed as Mdlle. Lind 
on that night. , Though the thunder of welcome was 
loud and long enough to stop the orchestra and to 
bewilder a veteran, and though it was acknowledged 
with due modesty, her hands did not tremble — one even 
arranged a ring on the finger of the other — and her 
voice spoke out as firmly as if neither fear nor failure 
was possible. . . . The scenes of Alice, thoroughly 
well given and perfectly suited to the powers of their 
giver, were waited for, listened to in breathless silence, 
and received with applause which was neither encourage- 
ment, nor appreciation, nor enthusiasm, so much as 


idolatry. Woe to those during that season who ventured 
to say or to write that any other great singer had ever 
sung in the Hay market Opera House ! To my cost, I 
know they were consigned to such ignominy as belongs 
to the idiotic slanderer. Old and seemingly solid friend- 
ships were broken, and for ever, in that year." 

But Mdlle. Lind was only a shooting star. Prudery 
and certain religious scruples with which she had be- 
come imbued through sanctimonious friends and epis- 
copal patrons determined her to quit the stage, and there 
were great .wailings and weepings, and a tremendous 
demonstration when, on May i8th, 1849, the wonderful 
songstress, but doubtful artiste, made her last bow 
behind the footlights. 

Sophie Cruvelli, who had fled overwhelmed by the 
Swedish vocalist's success, returned, and Madame 
Sontag, as before mentioned, stepped into the breach 
and kept Lumley's fortunes afloat a little longer. 

In 1848, Mr. Sims Reeves made his first appearance 
at the Italian Opera as Carlo, in Linda di Chamouni^ 
and was received with enthusiasm, but, in consequence 
of a disagreement with the management, he appeared 
but once. He reappeared in the next season with Miss 
Catherine Hayes in Lucia di Lammermoor as Edgardo.^ 
In 1849 he sang Elvino in La Somnambula, and in the 
next year, Ernani. He was a superb artiste and a great 
singer, but though highly successful at the Italian Opera, 
it is in English^ opera and oratorio that he will be chiefly 

The year 1851 was marked by the first production of 
Beethoven's Fidelia in this country ; Cruvelli being the 

^ He had sung this part at Drury Lane in 1847, after making a great 
success in it that same year at La Scala. Berlioz, who was the conductor 
at Drury Lane, was very enthusiastic about the English tenor. 


original Fidelio — ^a magnificent performance. In 1852 
the struggle between the two houses ended in the dis- 
comfiture of Her Majesty's, and landed Lumley in the 
bankruptcy court. 

The theatre now remained closed until the burning of 
Covent Garden in 1856, upon which Lumley once 
more became director of the old house; but he was 
terribly handicapped by Lord Ward, who, at the time 
of his bankruptcy, had bought in the theatrical proper- 
ties, and now required him to make over the lease of 
the house as security. Fortune, however,, returned to 
him with the advent of Giuglini, the last of the pure 
Italian tenors, and of that exquisite vocalist and actress 
Piccolomini, who, in La Traviata, created a furore second 
only to Jenny Lind. The d^but of Titiens in 1858, 
as Valentine in Les Huguenots, roused great excitement, 
both out of doors and behind the scenes. Even the 
rehearsals became exciting events. *'As her powerful 
voice," says Lumley, "rang through the theatre and 
excited the plaudits of all present, so the latent fire of 
Giuglini (the Raoul) became kindled in its turn, and, 
one artiste vying with the other in power and passion of 
musical declamation, each rehearsal became a brilliant 
performance. Indeed, so strongly were both artistes and 
connoisseurs impressed with the merits of Mdlle. Titiens, 
that fears were expressed lest she should utterly 'swamp' 
the favourite tenor. * He will never be able to come up 
to that powerful voice in the last act,' sa^d one. I fore- 
saw that their fears were groundless, and the result 
proved I was right, for in his personation of Raoul, 
Giuglini raised himself to the pinnacle of his profes- 
sion." The success at night was magnificent ; the 
Queen was present, and, upon leaving her box, told the 
impresario that it was beautiful. And those who can 


remember Teresa Titiens in this opera will more than 
endorse that verdict; physically she was anything but 
an ideal Valentine, but by the power of her genius, in 
the great duet, she literally transformed herself, and cast 
such a glamour over the spectator that one saw not a 
big and somewhat coarse-looking woman, but a heroic 
girl. As Norma, Lucrezia Borgia, Fidelio, as Anna, 
and in other parts, her acting was as magnificent as 
her vocalisation. I can personally remember a striking 
instance of her power over the audience. When 
Lohengrin was first produced at Her Majesty's, Titiens 
was the Ortruda. The Wagnerites strenuously put 
down every attempt at applause during the action of 
the first act But early in the second, after the meeting 
between Elsa and Ortruda, and the latter burst forth 
into the invocation to the infernal gods, such was the 
extraordinary power of the great prima donna, of her 
attitude, as she threw up her arms, of her splendid 
organ as it rose like a trumpet blast above the. crash 
of the instrumentation, that all else was forgotten, and 
the whole house burst forth into a roar of applause. 
Giuglini possessed a voice of entrancing beauty, its 
liquid sweetness was incomparable; but his career 
was very brief, he died the victim of his own popu- 

Lumley finally retired in 1858, and in i860, E. T. 
Smith, giving the impresario^ who had gone over to 
Boulogne out of the reach of his creditors, ;^ 16,000 
for *'the goodwill," added Her Majesty's Theatre to 
his numerous speculations — for one year. He opened, 
in April, with English opera, brought out Macfarren s 
Robin Hood, with Sims Reeves and a very competent 
cast, and signalised his brief management by producing 
on Boxing Night the first pantomime, Tom Thumbs 


ever seen upon this stage.^ On the 26th of April, 1862, 
Mapleson, who had been E. T. Smith's acting manager^ 
undertook the direction of the house. During the 
winter season of 1864, the Pyne and Harrison Company 
occupied the theatre, and followed up their predecessor's 
experiment by adding a Christmas pantomime to their 
other attractions.^ 

It was in the season of 1867, the year in which the 
house was burned to the ground, that that glorious 
artiste, Christine Nilsson, made her d^but here as 
Margherita, and achieved a triumph. Personally, at 
least, Gounod's heroine never had so ideal a representa- 
tive; the slender, graceful figure, the fair hair, the 
beautiful, dreamy, northern face, with its deep-set, grey- 
blue eyes, the exquisite voice, that thrilled like a silver 
bell, the poetry and passion of her acting were all that 
could be conceived of the creation of Gounod's music. 
Her Violetta, her Mignon,. her Alice, her Desdemona 
(in Rossini's Otello) were all wonderfully beautiful per- 
formances. Among her greatest successes was the 
double r6le of Margherita and Helen in Boito's Mefis- 
tofele. I never heard wilder enthusicism than she roused 
in the prison scene, after her solo and the duet with 

* Arditi told a good tale of his showman proclivities. One Oaks day, when 
he was the impresario of Her Majesty's, he invited Arditi, Titiens, Giuglini, 
and one or two others, to drive down to Epsom with him. A drag and 
a spanking turn-out were provided. It was noticed, as they drove along the 
road, that the conveyance excited a great deal of attention ; everybody 
stared at it and made remarks as it passed. During a halt, Giuglini hap- 
pened to pass round at the back of the drag, and there to his horror he saw 
a board on which were inscribed in glaring letters the words, "E. T. 
Smith's Operatic Company.** There were ructions, and everyone refused to 
go a step further until the advertisement was removed. 

* Falconer opened the house in November, 1866, with Oonagh^ the 
longest play on record. At two o^dock on the Sunday morning, the stage 
carpenters pulled the carpet from underneath the feet of the actors ; before 
they could scramble to their feet someone rang down the curtain, and the 
play was never finished. 


Campanini, as Faust, who was that night in fine form ; 
men sprang up on their seats, and cheered in a babel of 
tongues, and waved their hats, and ladies their pocket- 
handkerchiefs, in indescribable excitement. 

But I have advanced far into the chronicles of the 
new house. 

Before pursuing the story of the opera further, I must 
retrace my steps to give some account of the sister art, 
which for some years not only shared in importance 
with the lyric, but at one time threatened almost to 
supersede it 

The opera ballet dates irf this country from 1 734, when 
Mademoiselle Sall6 appeared at Covent Garden and 
created a wonderful furore. On her benefit night men 
fought their way to the doors sword in hand, and when 
she took her leave, purses of gold and bonbons of 
guineas were showered upon the stage. ^ Contemporaries 
are enthusiastic in their praise of her acting as Galatea 
in the ballet of Pygmalion and Galatea. After her 
departure there was a long pause before her successor 
appeared. On the Continent the rage for this graceful 
form of entertainment compelled opera composers to in- 
troduce the danseur and danseuse into all their works, 
however inappropriate might be their presence.^ '* You 
must write me the music for a chacone to this," said 
Vestris the eldest {le dieu de danse^ as he called himself) 
to Gliick, when the latter was writing the Iphigenia in 
Tauris. " Do you think the Greeks knew anything 

1 Yet twenty years later, when Garrick brought a troupe of French 
dancers to Drury Lane, there was a riot among the pittites, and after the 
performance, they marched to Southampton Street and broke his windows. 
But the opera in those days was exclusively patronised by the aristocracy. 

* The ballet was popular in Italy as early as the beginning of the six- 
teenth century ; it was introduced into France by Catherine de Medicis, and 
was in vogue all over Europe in the seventeenth century. 


about a chacone ? " answered Gliick indignantly. " Did 
they not ? " exclaimed Vestris, with a look of astonish- 
ment ; ** how I pity them ! " 

Our continual wars with France rendered it very diffi- 
cult to get good dancers, for in that country alone was 
there thorough training in this art. Sometimes the 
Parisians let us have a danseuse whose popularity was 
on the wane, such as Mademoiselle Guimard, who 
appeared at the King's Theatre in 1789. Lord 
Mount Edgcumbe says that, ''although sixty years 
of age, she was full of grace, and danced most ex- 
quisitely." But the lady was not nearly so old as his 
lordship represents, having been born in 1743. Made- 
leine Guimard was a noble woman as well as a fine 
artiste, and during the terrible distress that preceded the 
revolution, spent a large portion of her earnings in 
relieving the starving people, and this without breathing 
a word to anyone of her charitable deeds. The wars 
with the Republic and the Empire entirely cut off our 
supplies of Parisian danseuses for the next twenty years 
and more ; and even for some time after the peace the 
French were very loth to allow perfide Albion to have 
any but second-class artistes whom they did not care to 
keep, and as the opera-dancers were trained by an 
academy under the immediate control of a Minister, 
none could leave the country without permission. 

Upon becoming lessee of the Opera House, in 182 1, 
Mr. Ebers resolved to make a desperate effort to bring 
over some of the stars of the Parisian ballet. Of such 
importance were these negotiations, that they had to be 
conducted through the medium of the English am- 
bassador at Paris, who put himself in communication 
with the Baron de la Fert^, the Intendant of the 
Theatres. The artistes especially desired were the 


then reigning favourites of the dance — Albert and 
Noble t. The Intendant received the application with 
all suavity, but threw every possible obstacle in the way 
of granting it. After, however, as much duplicity and 
diplomacy as might have been required to bring about 
a treaty between two hostile nations, it was arranged 
that the desired ones should be spared to Albion for two 
months. For their services, Albert was to receive ;^50 
for each performance, and Noblet ;^550 for the entire 
engagement; in addition to which, £2^ was to be 
allowed each for the expenses of the journey. Two 
other celebrated dancers, Coulon and Bias, were en- 
gaged upon the same terms, together with three others, 
two males at ;^430 and £26fi each, and a lady at £2^0. 
The incense offered to Noblet might have turned any 
female brain. She was run after by the aristocracy, 
invited everywhere, literally worshipped ; she was the 
universal theme of conversation ; the fashionable world 
could think of nothing else. The Earl of Fife, then 
one of the principal patrons of the opera, placed a 
carriage at her disposal during her stay, and every 
Sunday gave dinner-parties in her honour. 

No sooner were her rehearsals announced than all the 
men of fashion, and all who were, or would be thought, 
judges of the graceful, eagerly solicited for admission to 
them, paying for the privilege as at a regular representa- 
tion. Nor was the curiosity confined to the gentlemen ; 
ladies of the first rank and fashion found their way to 
the theatre, and participated in the interest excited by 
the new arrivals. 

These children of Terpsichore, being so splendidly 
received, did not care to leave their comfortable quarters 
at the expiration of the given time. Upon which there 
was great excitement in Paris ; the perfidy of Albion 


had this time passed beyond the limits of endurance, 
since it treacherously desired to deprive France even of 
its dancers. Urgent remonstrances were made by the 
French Academy, and the Baron de la Fert^ sent over 
a special envoy to negotiate the return of the recalci- 
trants. After a very heated correspondence, it was 
arranged that they should remain in London until the 
end of the season, and that henceforth two first and two 
second dancers should be allowed to come over every 
season from the schools of the Academy, and that in 
return a pledge must be given that no dancer should be 
brought from Paris contrary to the wishes of the 
Academy. A treaty to this effect was drawn up in full 
form, signed, sealed, and witnessed. 

From this year, 182 1, considerably more than a hun- 
dred and fifty years after the Continent, however, the 
ballet rose to the dignity of an institution. In the 
accounts of the season, Mr. Ebers stated that while the 
opera cost ;^8,636, the expenses of the ballet were 
;^ 10,678. The prima donna, Madame Camporese, an 
immense favourite and a fine singer, received only 
;^i,650 for the season, while the principal male dancer, 
Albert, was paid ;^ 1,785, and the premHre danseuse, 
Noblet, ;^i,537. There was the same discrepancy 
throughout. De Begnis and his wife Ronzi de Begnis, 
Madame Vestris, and Ambrogetti, all fine artistes, re- 
ceived but ;^6oo each ; while two second dancers, Bias 
and Deshayes, were paid respectively £6$o and £g2>o. 
It had been stipulated in the first treaty that, at the end 
of Albert and Noblet's engagement, two other dancers 
of equal fame, Paul and Anatole, should take their 
places ; consequently, when the former arranged to 
remain until the end of the season, the manager found 
himself saddled with double expenses, which, to gratify 


his aristocratic patrons, he had to endure. In addition 
to the salaries before stated, Paul took ;^ 1,200 for half 
the season, Anatole ;^ 1,300, and the Vestrises, the 
dancers, father and son, ;^ 1,200. The most curious 
feature in these accounts is the enormous sums paid to 
a class of artistes who have wholly disappeared — the 
male dancers, who actually received larger salaries than 
the danseuse. No ballet was possible without their 
assistance, and many of them were not only consummate 
pantomimists, but very beautiful executants. Albert is 
said to have been the most graceful dancer that was 
ever seen at the London opera, while Paul "seemed 
literally to fly as he bounded from the stage, so light and 
zephyry were his motions." 

Yet the ballets were as wretchedly mounted as the 
operas. Ebers himself writes : ** The same scenes, the 
same dresses, and the same decorations figured in every 
performance, till the eye was wearied and the imagina- 
tion disgusted by seeing different countries and ages all 
exhibiting the same scenes and costumes. Nor was the 
scarcity of dresses confined to the coryphees and figur- 
antes of the ballet and the inferior characters of the 
opera ; the premiers sujets were as sparingly appointed. 
Every other theatre gave correct scenery and costume, 
with every possible degree of magnificence ; it was only 
at the opera scenes and dresses were mean and in- 
appropriate." He mentions it as worthy of particular 
note that he introduced repeated changes of dress in the 
same performance, and that in the ballet of Aline the 
dresses were three times varied. 

But it was not until the advent of the world-famous 
Taglioni and Fanny Elssler that the ballet attained its 
highest development and popularity. A critic happily 
defined Taglioni as the poetry, Elssler as the wit of 

_ i 


motion. Their style was entirely different. Nothing 
like the chaste and exquisite movements of the former 
in La Sylphide, La Ftlle de Danube, Giselle^ L Ombre 
have ever been seen before or since. But Elssler was 
more than a danseuse — "she was the only artist of the 
century, perhaps, who combined in so striking a degree 
the two talents of actress and dancer." 

" Nothing in execution was too daring for her, 
nothing too pointed," says Chorley in his Musical 
Recollections. " If Mdlle. Taglioni flew, she flashed. 
The one floated on to the stage like a nymph, the other 
showered every sparkling fascination round her like a 
sorceress. Her versatility, too, was complete ; she had 
every style, every national humour under her feet — she 
could be Spanish for the Spaniards, or Russian for the 
Northerns, or Neapolitan for those who love the de- 
licious Tarantula. But beyond these, Mdlle. Elssler, 
as an actress, commanded powers of high and subtle 

One of her greatest triumphs was in the ballet of the 
Tarantula, which is the story of a girl who pretends 
to be tarantula-mad that she may dance an elderly suitor 
into declining her hand. " The manner in which she 
wrought its whimsical scenfes up to a climax ; the grace, 
the daring, the incessant brilliancy, the feverish buoyancy, 
and the sly humour with which she managed to let the 
public into the secret that her madness was only feigned, 
raised this ridiculous farce to the level of a work of art."' 
In private life, it is said that the most prudish man or 
woman might have passed days in her society without 
being recalled to any recollection of the scanty stage 
dress, and the attitudes more fitted for sculpture than for 
social life ; in short, by any look, gesture, or allusion 
belonging to the dancers craft. In America, divines 


offered her their pews at meeting-houses, students 
serenaded her, rich men showered gold and diamonds 
upon her instead of bouquets. 

Besides these empresses of the dance, there were 
queens that were scarcely inferior to them : the charming 
Cerito, Adde Dumildtre, the very incarnation of grace, 
and fascinating Carlotta Grisi. In 1843, Dumildtre, in 
Les Houris, nightly crowded Fop s Alley ; and in Un 
Bal sous Louts XIV., the minuet de la couTy in which 
Elssler was her cavalier, became the rage. Ondtne with 
Cerito made an equal sensation, while the divine Fanny 
eclipsed them all in Le Delire (fun Peintre and the 
world-famous Cachuca^ which was ground on every organ, 
whistled by every boy, and attempted on the boards 
of every provincial theatre. And with this wonderful 
combination of dancers were musical stars of equal 
splendour — Grisi, Persiani, Mario, Lablache, etc. 

On June loth, 1843, there appeared in the theatrical 
news of the Examiner the following paragraph : " A 
Spanish danseuse. Donna Lola Montez, made her 
appearance between the acts of the opera on Saturday, 
and executed a characteristic step called * El Olano.' 
The Donna was destitute of those graces which impart 
such a charm to the French and Italian dancers ; but 
there was a certain intensity of expression, and, as it 
seemed, a certain nationality, which gave her a peculiar 
interest. In spite of the encouraging reception she met, 
she has not danced since Saturday, which remains a 
mystery." Such was the announcement of the first 
public appearance of this thereafter notorious person. 
Mr. Lumley accounts for **the mystery." He says the 
lady was introduced to him by a certain nobleman as 
the daughter of a celebrated Spanish patriot and martyr, 
and represented as a dancer of consummate ability ; he 


very soon discovered that in both particulars he had been 
deceived — that she was not a Spaniard, but an English- 
woman, and, although singularly beautiful, and with a 
certain novelty of style, had no pretensions to the 
name of artiste or danseuse. Yet the public received 
her with every sign of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, he 
would not allow her to appear after the first two or three 
nights. The story told of her exit is that the impresario 
having made some disparaging remarks upon her 
dancing, she broke her umbrella over his head. 

The novelty of 1845 was the "Viennoise" children. 
A dancing-mistress of Vienna had trained thirty-six 
little girls into a corps de ballet Their marvellous 
success in the Austrian capital induced the English 
manager to offer to engage them. The Austrian 
authorities interposed ; they feared to trust these young 
lambs within the wolf-fold of the heretics — at least, so 
it was whispered. But all difficulties were ultimately 
overcome, and the little ladies were allowed to appear 
before a London public. Their success was very g^reat. 
They were splendidly trained, and executed their dances 
with a precision little short of marvellous. Their greatest 
performance was the Pas de Miroir, in which one division 
performed a very elaborate dance before a gauze intended 
to represent a mirror, while another set on the opposite 
side went through the reverse movements so accurately 
that the illusion of a reflected dance was perfect 

Lucille Grahn, who, the critics said, combined the 
ideal forms of Taglioni with the realism of Elssler and 
the sprightliness of Carlotta Grisi, appeared in the same 
season. Nor among the danseuses must we forget the 
danseurs, the celebrated Perrot, St. L6on, and M. Charles. 
The ballet of Eoline, with Lucille Grahn, rivalled the 
past popularity of the Sylphide and Ondine ; and the 


Mazurka (VExtase^ with Perrot, excited almost as much 
enthusiasm as Elssler s Pas de Fascination. Taglioni 
reappeared, after an absence, that same year. 

But the great event of all was the famous Pas de 
Qtiatre. How it was brought about must be told in the 
words of its projector, Mr. Lumley. '* With such 
materials in my grasp as the four celebrated dafiseuses — 
Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Cerito, and Lucille Grahn — it 
was my ambition to unite them all in one striking diver- 
tissement. But ambition, even seconded by managerial 
will, scarcely sufficed to put so audacious a project into 
execution. The government of a great state was but a 
trifle compared to the government of such subjects as 
those whom I was supposed to be able to command ; for 
these were subjects who considered themselves far above 
mortal control, or, more properly speaking, each was 
a queen in her own right — alone, absolute, supreme. . . . 
But there existed difficulties even beyond a manager's 
calculations. Material obstacles were easily overcome. 
When it was feared that Carlotta Grisi would not be 
able to leave Paris in time to rehearse and appear for 
the occasion, a vessel was chartered from the Steam 
Navigation Company to waft the sylph at a moment's 
notice across the Channel ; a special train was engaged 
and ready at Dover ; relays of horses were in waiting 
to aid the flight of the danseuse all the way from Paris 
to Calais. In the execution of the project the difficulty 
was again manifold. Every twinkle of each foot in 
every pas had to be nicely weighed in the balance, so 
as to give no preponderance. Each danseuse was to 
shine in her peculiar style and grace to the last stretch 
of perfection, but no one was to outshine the others 
unless in her own individual belief. Lastly, the famous 
Pas de Qtmtre was composed with all the art of which 


the distinguished dancing-master, Perrot, was capable. 
All was at length adjusted. Satisfaction was in every 
mind; the Pas de Qtuitre was rehearsed — was announced ; 
the very morning of the event had arrived, no further 
hindrances were expected. Suddenly, while I was en- 
gaged with the lawyers in my room, poor Perrot rushed 
unannounced into my presence in a state of intense 
despair. He uttered frantic exclamations, tore his hair, 
and at last found breath to say all was over, that the Pas de 
Quatre had fallen to the ground, and could never be given. 
With difficulty the unfortunate ballet-master was calmed 
down to a sufficient state of reason to be able to explain 
the cause of his anguish. When all was ready, I had 
desired Perrot to regulate the order in which the separate 
pas of each danseuse should come. The place of honour, 
the last in such cases, as in regal processions, had been 
ceded without over-much hesitation to Mdlle. Taglioni. 
Of the remaining ladies, who claimed equal rights, 
founded on talent and popularity, neither would appear 
before the others. ' Mon Dieu / ' exclaimed the ballet- 
master, 'Cerito will not begin before Carlotta, nor 
Carlotta before Cerito ; there is no way to make them 
stir — ^all is finished!' 'The solution is easy,' said I; 
*let the oldest take her unquestionable right to the envied 
position.' The ballet-master smote his forehead, smiled 
assent, and bounded from the room upon the stage. 
The judgment of the manager was announced. The 
ladies tittered, laughed, drew back, and were now as 
much disinclined to accept the right of position as they 
had been before eager to claim it. The order of the 
ladies being settled, the Grand Pas de Quatre was finally 
performed on the same night before a delighted audience, 
who little knew how nearly they had been deprived of 
their promised treat." 


The excitement out of doors was as great as it was 
within ; the house was crowded to suffocation every 
night; from the palace to the shop-counter it was the 
one absorbing topic of conversation. The excitement 
crossed the Channel, foreign newspapers teemed with 
histories of its wonders. Foreign courts received 
accounts of its captivations with official despatches. "It 
was literally a European event." The wonderful Pas 
was revived in 1847 with Rosati, a new luminary, in 
place of Lucille Grahn, the other three being as before. 
Les Quatre Saisons, another very remarkable ballet, 
produced in 1848, with Carlotta Grisi, Cerito, Marie 
Taglioni, Rosati, Perrot, and St. L^on, was received 
with almost equal enthusiasm. 

But already the tide was turning. The first decline 
of the ballet may be traced to the appearance of Jenny 
Lind, to the development of that craze which admitted 
of no rivalry. Languid swells began to be bored with 
trying to understand the story of those poetic and 
elaborate entertainments, and cared only for the de- 
tached dances. One of, if not the last of the great 
opera ballets was Le Corsair, 1856. Rosati, last of the 
line of opera danseuses, was the Medora, Ronzani the 
Conrad. But in spite of the splendour of the pro- 
duction, upon which an immense sum was expended, it 
was a failure. Gradually the ballet sank in importance, 
until it became only an adjunct to the opera, as in 
Guglielmo Tell, Roberto II Dtavolo. In 1857 a troupe 
of Spanish dancers appeared at the Haymarket, of 
which the famous Perea Nena was the principal, and 
revolutionised the art. The marvellous rapidity and 
variety of her steps, which were worked up to a de- 
lirium of motion, created a great sensation ; the sylph- 
like beauty, the poetic vivacity of Taglioni and Elssler 


were seen no more ; many dancers imitated Perea Nena, 
but they could neither approach the facility of her steps 
nor the exquisite voluptuous Spanish grace of the 
original ; they simply vulgarised the terpsichorean art. 
Only twice since the fifties has London been afforded a 
glimpse of the poetry of motion — when Madame Dor 
appeared in Babil and Bijou in 1872, and Adelina Rossi 
in the magnificent ballet Excelsior at Her Majesty's in 
1885. Both, but especially the latter, were fine ex- 
amples of the classic school. 

Ballet, except in Drury Lane pantomime, is now a 
monopoly of the variety theatre ; the Empire and the 
Alhambra mount these productions with a splendour 
never dreamed of in the days of Taglioni and Elssler, 
but the prima ballerina is extinct. Dancing must now 
be reckoned among the lost arts. 

To return to the story of the opera. Earl Dudley 
held Lumley s lease, which did not expire until 1891, so 
he determined to rebuild the theatre, after the fire. It 
was completed in 1872, at a cost of ;^50,ooo. But no 
tenant could be found. As the greater number of the 
stalls and boxes were let upon lease, the expenses would 
exceed the receipts, though the house were to be crammed 
every night. It was sold by auction in 1874 for ;^3 1,000. 

The religious Christy minstrels. Moody and Sankey, 
were the first tenants, and proved "a draw." But on 
April 30th, 1877, Mapleson ventured again to become 
lessee, and opened the new house as Her Majesty's 
Opera, with Norma. It was almost the last appear- 
ance of Titiens. A few short weeks afterwards her 
glorious voice was hushed in death. 

The most remarkable d6but at the new house was that 
of Etelka Gerster, a supremely fine singer, who made a 
great impression as Gilda, Amina, Lucia, Margherita, 


Linda. The reappearance of Tamberlik after a long 
absence was another remarkable event. Rossini's Otello 
was the part chosen. In the old days he, like Rubini, 
was celebrated for giving the high B flat from the chest, 
and everyone in the Audience was on the tiptoe of ex- 
pectation for this wonderful note. He acted and sang 
magnificently, though the middle register of his voice 
was a little worn. At last, in the scene with lago 
(Faure) in the third act, the eagerly anticipated note 
rang through the house. It was like an electric shock, 
and evoked a frantic shout of applause, renewed again 
and again. 

Nilsson sang during several seasons, Trebelli remained 
faithful to her old home, Minnie Hauk made a success as 
Carmen, the company was usually fairly good, sometimes 
excellent ; but the house never paid, it never could pay. 

Carl Rosa had seasons here in 1879, 1880, and 1882. 
Mayer brought Sarah Bernhardt and a French opera 
company in 1886; there were promenade concerts in the 
next year under Van Biene. Mapleson started the opera 
season of 1889 ; then it was taken over by a company, 
with a capital of ;^40,ooo, which in less than a year came 
to grief. French plays by the Gymnase Company, and 
Sarah Bernhardt, 1890, as Jeanne cTArc. But in the 
year before the grand old house fell into the most utter 
degradation. In 1889 it was the scene of a boxing 
tournament, and the stage which had been trodden by 
some of the grandest lyric artistes of the day was given 
up to bruisers. A ''gorgeous" pantomime was, how- 
ever, produced at the close of the year. But the end 
was at hand. In 1892, all the effects were sold off, and 
soon afterwards the building was demolished^ 

' Attached to the old Opera House, that was burned down in 1867, was 
a small theatre called the Bijou, which was used occasionally for concerts 


To complete this brief sketch of the opera in 
England, I must go back to Co vent Garden, after the 
fire. The ruins were scarcely cold ere the rebuilding 
was decided upon. The Duke of Bedford granted a 
ground lease for ninety years at a rental of ;^850, more 
than an acre of additional land being acquired by the 
demolition of the Piazza Hotel and other houses. The 
huge theatre cost ;^70,ooo. The area of the stage, ex- 
clusive of the bow in front of the proscenium, is 90 feet 
by 88 feet; the length of the entire building on the Bow 
Street side is 127 feet, on the Hart Street side, 210 feet. 
It was opened on May 15th, 1858, by Gye with Les 
Huguenots^ in which Mario and Grisi sustained the chief 
parts ; followed by La Travtata with Bosio. Some of 
the most famous debuts which have taken place at the 
present house are those of Adelina Patti, 1861, Pauline 
Lucca, Albani, Santley, Trebelli, Faure, Tamberlik, 

In 1869 the management of the two opera houses was 
amalgamated, the first result of which was the with- 
drawal of Costa, and this was followed by the secession 
of Mdlles. Christine Nilsson and lima Di Murska, Foli, 
Santley, and others. Before 1871 the impossible fusion 
was dissolved, and Messrs. Gye and Mapleson were 
once more in active opposition, the latter at Drury Lane, 
whefe he gave operatic performances until he returned 
to his old quarters in the Haymarket. 

Mr. Gye's management was chiefly remarkable for the 
superior manner in which the operas were mounted, a 
detail that had never received much attention at the 
other house, but it was, at the same time, responsible for 
an evil which finally threatened to crush Italian opera 

and light entertainments. Mathews and his wife gave their entertainment 
" Charles Mathews at Home," here in 1862. 


out of existence — ^the star prima donna, who was paid 
such enormous sums that a satisfactory ensemble was 
rendered impossible. A Philistine public, whose artistic 
sympathies were nil, whose musical tastes simply de- 
pended upon the fashion of the moment, were brought 
to the belief that there was nothing worth hearing except 
Madame Patti, and it was only on the nights that lady 
and one or two others sang that the house was filled. 

It was reserved for the energy of Augustus Harris — 
who, after successfully experimenting with Italian Opera 
at Drury Lane in 1886, undertook the management of 
Covent Garden for the following season — to pluck up 
courage to refuse the terms of and dispense with the 
services of the star prima donna Opera was grown 
musty with worn-out traditions; everything was hack- 
neyed, conventional, lifeless ; the operatic stage was 
a generation behind the dramatic ; a realistic age was 
disgusted at its dreary artificiality. The new impresario 
reformed this altogether. The introduction of the De 
Reszkes, Lassalle, and other fine male artistes, rendered 
the men rather than the women the chief draw ; Madame 
Melba, however, has of late sung the public back to 
their old love. To enumerate all the great, singers 
that Sir Augustus Harris introduced to the London 
public would be to name most of the greatest of the day, 
notably Madame Calv6. It was under his management 
that the Meistersinger was first heard in England, not- 
withstanding that up to the last a certain royal person- 
age was opposed to the experiment, though after hearing 
that great masterpiece the Prince handsomely acknow- 
ledged his mistake. Tristan und Isolde, the Valkyrie 
were also added to the repertory by this dauntless 
entrepreneur, who had the audacity even to eliminate 
the word '* Italian " from the bills, which, as the libretto 


was quite as frequently sung in French and German, 
as in the tongue of Rossini, had long become an absurd 
anomaly, and substitute for it "The Royal Opera." 
The worn-out, oleaginous, wooden-faced choristers, in 
their dingy or tawdry costumes, whose action and 
expression were invariable, whether they were witness- 
ing a wedding or a murder, gave place to fresh voices, 
youth, sympathy, and bright, appropriate dresses. 

Since the death of Harris, Covent Garden has been 
managed by a syndicate of ''noblemen and gentlemen," 
who have expended large sums upon remodelling and 
refurnishing the stage, and in bringing the house up 
to present-day requirements, though no improvements 
can ever render it, inferior as it is to almost every opera 
house on the Continent, worthy to be the lyric theatre of 
the greatest city of the world.* 

For several seasons the trend has been entirely in the 
direction of Wagner. The magnificent productions of 
the ** Ring," and the success which has attended them, 
and the preponderance of the great German maestro s 
works over those of all other composers, have unmistak- 
ably indicated the musical proclivities of the day. But 
of late there have been signs, if not of reaction, at least 
of a reawakened taste for lighter and more tuneful 
operas, thanks chiefly to the splendid singing of Madame 
Melba, and the no less splendid powers, both vocal 
and histrionic, of that grand artiste, Madame Calv^. 

There is another remarkable circumstance connected 
with the revivification of opera by Sir Augustus Harris : 
he solved the problem that had baffled all his prede- 
cessors — how to make opera pay, and he has bequeathed 
the secret to his heirs. 

^ See note 2, at the end. 


The Little Theatre in the Hay market—Its Rise, Progress, Fortunes, and 
those who have shared in them, 1720- 1903 

A FTER Drury Lane, there is not a theatre in London 
l\ so rich in memories of the great actors who have 
strutted and fretted their hours upon the stage as *'the 
little theatre in the Hay market." In the old days of the 
patent monopoly it was a kind of a chapel-at-ease to 
Drury Lane and Covent Garden, doing duty for them 
during the summer months, and here candidates for 
admission to those mighty universities of the histrionic 
art most frequently first sought the suffrages of a metro- 
politan audience. In 1720, one John Potter, a carpenter, 
purchased the site of aa old inn called **The Kings 
Head," and erected thereupon a small theatre. As the 
building, decorations, scenery, and dresses cost in all 
only fifteen hundred pounds, it could not have been a 
very splendid affair. 

Colley Gibber complained that Sir John Vanbrugh's 
great house, on the opposite side, was built in the 
country ; but during the fourteen years that followed 
its erection, Hanover and Grosvenor Squares were built, 
and new streets were being laid out on all sides of them ; 
yet still to the north and the west green fields, and farm- 
houses, and milkmaids, and hayricks were within a few 
minutes' walk. Having no patent or licence, Mr. Potter 
opened with a company of young amateurs, who had 
been acting at a tavern in St. Alban's Street. 



On December 15th, 1720, a newspaper of the day 
published the following advertisement: "At the New 
Theatre in the Haymarket, between Little Suffolk 
Street and James Street, which is now completely fur- 
nished, will be presented a French Comedy, as soon as 
the rest of the actors arrive from Paris, who are duly 
expected. Boxes and pit, five shillings ; gallery, two-and- 
sixpence." On the 29th of the same month, the rest of 
the actors having, I presume, arrived, the house was 
opened with La Fille cL la Mode^ on le Badaud de Paris, 
" under the patronage of a distinguished nobleman," the 
company, according to the fashion of the day, styling 
themselves "the French Comedians of his Grace the 
Duke of Montague." Performances at first were given 
four times a week, then two were found to be sufficient, 
and the prices of admission were lowered, boxes to four 
shillings, pit to half a crown, and gallery to eighteen- 
pence. As the aristocracy alone would support foreign 
entertainments, the French speculation languished, and 
on the 4th of the following May came to an end. In 
1726 we find the Haymarket in the possession of 
acrobats, tumblers, and the famous rope-dancer, Signora 
Violante, who, in Dublin, first trained Peg Woffington 
for the stage. 

Of the history of " the little theatre in the Hay- 
market" — so called to distinguish it from its big brother 
opposite — during the early years of its existence, we 
can obtain only stray glimpses through the medium of 
advertisements in old newspapers, for its doings were 
considered quite beneath the notice of the dramatic 
historians of the time. Colley Cibber does not deign 
to mention it in his Apology. It lived only upon suf- 
ferance. Occasionally a temporary licence was obtained, 
through the influence of some nobleman, for regular 


dramatic performances ; at others it was opened by 
amateurs, or by authors who could not obtain a home 
for their bantlings at Lincoln's Inn or Drury Lane. An 
extraordinary production of this kind was brought out 
here in 1729 by one Johnson, a dancing-master of 
Chester. It was called Hurlothrumbo, or the Super- 
natural. A contemporary describes the author as play- 
ing a part called Lord Flame, and ** speaking sometimes 
in one key, sometimes in another ; sometimes dancing, 
sometimes fiddling, sometimes walking upon stilts." 
This curious medley had a run of thirty nights. 

Fielding is the first great name connected with this 
house. It was here, in 1730, that he produced his once- 
famous burlesque The Tragedy of Tragedies, or the Life 
and Death of Tom Thumb the Great. Like the yet 
more famous Rehearsal, it was a satire upon the heavy 
tragedies of the day, and, though greatly altered to fall 
in with the humour of succeeding generations, it kept 
the stage until within living memory. Lord Grizzle 
was one of Liston s favourite parts. Swift is accredited 
with saying that he never laughed but twice, and one 
of these occasions was at a performance of Tom Thumb. 
About eight out of the twenty-seven dramatic pieces 
which flowed from the facile pen of the author of Tom 
Jones were first produced upon the Haymarket stage. 
Most of them are in the burlesque style — indeed. Field- 
ing was undoubtedly the father of modern burlesque, 
and one or two of his efforts in that line, founded on 
classic subjects, with songs and duets that might almost 
have been written by Byron or Brough, could with very 
little alteration have been revived at the old Strand 
Theatre. His comedy was intensely personal; no public 
abuse and no public character, from the Prime Minister 
to the actors at the neighbouring theatre, escaped flagel- 
lation by that keen and daring wit. 


The first English company of any note that performed 
at the Haymarket were the Drury Lane rebels, under 
Theophilus Gibber.^ The patentees appealed to the 
law, and one of the actors, Harper, was arrested to 
make a trial case, under the old Act of Elizabeth, which 
accounted all players wandering from place to place or 
playing in unlicensed buildings as rogues and vaga- 
bonds.^ Popular feeling, however, was all on the side 
of Harper, who was a householder and a man of means, 
so he was acquitted of the charge, and the house re- 
mained open until the following May. 

Fielding, having found some "adventurers" to risk 
their money, undertook the management of the Hay- 
market in 1734; but he opened either on sufferance or 
in defiance of the law, as the following advertisement 
will show: "March 5th, 1735, The Great Mogul's 
Company of English Comedians, newly imported at 
the New Theatre in the Haymarket. Sealed tickets 
for Monday, March 8th, being the third day of the 
entertainment, may be had at the Two Blue Posts, Bow 
Street, Covent Garden, and at. the Bedford Coffee 
House, in the Great Piazza." We find but few familiar 
names among this company ; Macklin's is the only one 
of any repute, he not having returned to Drury Lane 
with the rest of the revolted company. Fielding's 
management lasted until the passing of the Licensing 
Act (1737), which his bitter satire upon Sir Robert 
Walpole, under the name of Quidam in The Historical 
Register, played here in the year just named, did much 
to bring about' 

The Act was extremely unpopular, and audiences 
loved to damn new plays simply because they were 
licensed. A fine opportunity of displaying their animus 

^ See p. 63. '-* See note " Rogues and Vagabonds," at the end. ' See p. 67. 


was afforded by the announcement ( 1 738) that a French 
company was about to give a series of representations 
" under distinguished patronage " at ** the little theatre." 
As it was publicly threatened that the performance would 
be violently interfered with, a detachment of soldiers 
was ordered to the Haymarket, and one of the West- 
minster magistrates, Justice Deveil, took a seat in the 
pit as the representative of law and order. 

Nothing so exasperated John Bull in those days as to 
flourish the French flag before his eyes, for he was 
nothing if not national. As soon as possible after the 
doors were opened the house was crammed from floor to 
ceiling, and the audience sounded the note of preparation 
by singing in chorus *' The Roast Beef of Old England." 
When the curtain rose, the actors were discovered 
standing between two files of Grenadier Guards, the 
soldiers with fixed bayonets and resting upon their 
firelocks. A roar of indignation greeted this sight ; the 
whole pit rose and, turning to the Justice, demanded that 
the military should be withdrawn. He dared not resist 
the appeal, and gave the men the signal to retire. But 
when the actors opened their mouths, their words were 
drowned by howls, hisses, catcalls, and every kind of 
diabolical noise, while patriotic individuals demanded to 
know why English actors should be prohibited from 
appearing upon that stage and foreigners obtain per- 
mission and protection. Deveil promised that if the 
performance was permitted to go on he would lay the 
grievance before the King, but shouts of '* No treaties !" 
was the unanimous answer. As they could not make 
their voices heard, the unfortunate French people ranged 
themselves for a dance ; then from all parts of the house 
rained a hailstorm of peas, covering the stage and 
rendering dancing impossible. The Justice called for 


a candle to read the Riot Act, and threatened to summon 
the military to disperse the audience, but the attitude of 
the rioters was so menacing that it remained a threat 
and nothing more. The French and Spanish am- 
bassadors and their wives, and other aristocratic patrons, 
now hurried from their boxes; while the management, 
finding it useless to oppose the storm, ordered the 
curtain to be dropped. "And," says a contemporary 
writer, ** no battle gained by Marlborough ever elicited 
more frantic enthusiasm than did this victory over 
foreign actors." 

For several years after the passing of the obnoxious 
Act ** the little theatre " led but a vagabond existence ; 
it was only occasionally taken by some adventurer, who, 
having nothing to lose, could evade or defy the law. 

In the February of 1744 another rebellious subject 
of the lords of the patent opened this refuge for destitute 
and quarrelsome players. This was Charles Macklin, 
who was already one of the foremost actors of the day. 
Macklin was a teacher of his art, and, with a slight 
sprinkling of professionals, his company was made up of 
amateurs and pupils. Among the latter was a young 
fellow about town, well known at the Bedford Coffee 
House for his wit, named Samuel Foote, who here 
made his first appearance upon any stage as Othello to 
his tutor s lago.^ The future droll was short and stout, 
with a round, full, flat face, and his appearance as the 
Moor must have been extremely funny. 

In September, 1744, Theophilus Cibber again re- 
volted against his manager, and, with some other mal- 
contents, on September nth in that year, once more 
opened "the little theatre" with Shakespeare's Romeo 

^ This could scarcely have been funnier than when, more than a century 
later, Sothem played Othello to Buckstone's lago on these same boards. 

■ A rvi 1 1 1. 1 F- n T F . 


and Juliet, which was played for the first time " for one 
hundred years. "^ 

Since 1680 a garbled version of the tragedy, by 
Otway, entitled Caius Marius^ in which the Veronese 
lovers were converted into ancient Romans, had pos- 
sessed the stage.* The success of the revival was an- 
nounced the next morning in the General Advertiser^ 
wherein it was stated that *' many persons of distinction 
were last night in the pit and gallery, who could not 
find room in the boxes." On the 14th it was "bespoke 
by several ladies of quality." Theophilus's daughter 
Jane was the Juliet. How he contrived to drive the 
proverbial coach and four through the Act of Parliament 
is explained by the following advertisement which ap- 
peared in the Advertiser. " At Mr. Gibber s academy, 
in the Haymarket, will be a concert ; after which will be 
exhibited gratis a rehearsal in the form of a play, called 
Romeo and Juliet.'' But in the course of a few weeks, 
on October 22nd, the house was closed by order of 
the Lord Chamberlain. 

During this brief season it would seem that Theophilus 
also revived Cymbeline for the first time since the 
Restoration. When he left the theatre, Mrs. Charke, 
CoUey Gibber s notorious daughter, who always played 
male parts and wore male attire in private life, tried to 
keep the company together, but was very soon expelled. 

1 That is, according to Mr. Gibber ; but Pepys records seeing Rotneo 
and Juliet at the Opera House (Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre) in March, 
1662. This could hardly be James Howard's version, as that was produced 
at Drury Lane. It must not be supposed that Gibber gave the play from 
the text ; it was announced as revised and altered by himself, but the 
alterations were chiefly borrowed from Caius Marius. 

* In Fielding's Tom Tkumby Huncamunca exclaims : " Oh Tom Thumb, 
Tom Thumb, wherefore art thou Tom Thumb?" In the notes to the play 
the author quotes the lines, not from Shakespeare, but from Otway, where it 
stands: **0h Marius, Marius, wherefore art thou Marius?"— a proof of 
how little Shakespeare was known at the time. 


The result of Foote s appearance in tragedy was an 
engagement at Drury Lane for comedy parts. There he 
made so great a success as a mimic in the character of 
Bayes in The Rehearsaly that, finding himself over- 
shadowed by the genius of Garrick, he determined to 
turn manager on his own account. Failing to procure a 
licence, he took a leaf out of Mr. Gibber's book, and on 
April 22nd, 1 747, announced that a concert of music would 
on that day be performed at the theatre in the Hay- 
market, after which would be presented gratis a new 
entertainment, called The Diversions of the Morning, 
and a farce taken from The Old Bachelor^ entitled The 
Credulous Husband — Fondle wife, Mr. Foote — and an 
epilogue by the B — d — d (Bedford) Goffee House. The 
Diversions and the Epilogue consisted of a mimicry of 
the best-known men of the day — actors, doctors, lawyers, 
statesmen. The managers of the patent houses could 
not tolerate such an infringement of their rights as a 
performance by one of the most popular comedians of 
the time. They appealed to the Westminster magis- 
trates, and on the second night the constables entered 
the theatre and dispersed the audience. 

But Foote was not so easily to be put down. The 
very next morning he published the following announce- 
ment in the General Advertiser: "On Saturday after- 
noon, exactly at twelve o'clock, at the new theatre in the 
Haymarket, Mr. Foote begs the favour of his friends to 
come and drink a dish of chocolate with him, and 'tis 
hoped there will be a great deal of company and some 
joyous spirits. He will endeavour to make the morning 
as diverting as possible. Tickets to be had for this 
entertainment at Georges Goffee House, Temple Bar, 
without which no one will be admitted. N.B. — Sir 
Dilbury Diddle will be there, and Lady Betty Frisk has 


absolutely promised." No one knew what this advertise- 
ment meant, and a crowded house was the natural result. 
When the curtain rose, Foote came forward and in- 
formed the audience that, **as he was training some 
young performers for the stage, he would, with their 
permission, whilst chocolate was getting ready, proceed 
with his instructions before them." Then some young 
people, engaged for the purpose, were brought upon the 
stage, and, under the pretence of instructing them in the 
art of acting, he introduced his imitations. 

The authorities did not again interfere with him, so 
he altered the time of his entertainment from morning to 
evening, and the title to " Tea " ; and to drink a dish of 
tea with Mr. Foote, as going to his theatre came to be 
styled, was the rage of the season. Next year he called 
his performance " An Auction of Pictures." Here is one 
of his advertisements : " At the forty-ninth day's sale at 
his auction-room in the Hay market, Mr. Foote ,will 
exhibit a choice collection of pictures — some entirely 
new lots, consisting of a poet, a beau, a Frenchman, a 
miser, a tailor, a sot, two young gentlemen, and a ghost ; 
two of which are originals, the rest copies from the best 
masters." In this he mimicked the peculiarities of 
Justice Deveil, Cock, the auctioneer, and the notorious 
orator, Henley. To the attractions of his ''Auction'* he 
presently added a "Cat Concert," in ridicule of the 
Italian opera, and engaged a man so celebrated for his 
imitations of those tuneful animals that he was known as 
Cat Harris. And fashion, as usual, flocked to the Hay- 
market to hear and see its tastes turned into ridicule. 

In 1 749 the little theatre nearly came to an untimely 
end through a hoax perpetrated for a wager by the Duke 
of Montagu. One morning the town was thrown into a 
wonderful state of excitement by the announcement that, 


on a certain evening, the *' Great Bottle Conjurer " would 
appear at the Hay market ; that, among other extra- 
ordinary feats, he would put himself into a quart bottle 
and sing a song therein ; that he would summon up the 
spirits of dead relations for anyone desirous of seeing 
them, and enable the living to converse with the dead. 
There was, and is, no limit to English gullibility, and 
the house was crammed, not with the ignorant and 
vulgar, but with the fashionable world. After a long 
delay, during which the dupes grew very impatient, a 
person came forward and informed the audience that the 
bottle conjurer was unable to appear that evening, but if 
they would come again the next, he would undertake to 
squeeze himself into a pint bottle instead of a quart 
The spectators, being deficient in a sense of humour, 
resented the joke ; the Duke of Cumberland, who was 
among the gulls, drew his sword, and leaping upon the 
stage, called upon everybody to follow him. The people, 
ripe for mischief, were too loyal to decline a prince's 
invitation. The seats were smashed, the scenery 
was torn down, the wreckage carried into the street, 
where a bonfire was made of it ; and but for the timely 
appearance of the authorities, the building itself would 
have been added to the fuel. 

During the winter months, Foote was engaged at one 
or the other of the winter theatres, where many of his 
best pieces were produced, and afterwards transferred in 
the summer months to the Hay market. His satire was 
not keener or more impartial than Fielding's, but the 
great novelists characters were performed by only 
ordinary actors, while Foote, who was one of the most 
extraordinary mimics that ever lived, embodied his own 
caricatures, and thereby increased their poignancy tenfold. 
The audacity of his personalities was astounding. In 


The Orators (1762), he personated, under the name of 
Peter Paragraph, a noted printer, publisher, and alder- 
man of Dublin, known as one-legged George Faulkener. 
The Irishman brought an action of libel against him : 
a trial ensued. Next season at the Hay market, the 
incorrigible wit introduced a new scene into the piece, 
representing the trial, in which he caricatured judge, 
counsel, and jury. In The Mayor of Garrat, one of his 
wittiest pieces, under the name of Matthew Mug, he held 
up to public derision the silly old Duke of Newcastle, of 
whom he used to say that he always appeared as if he 
had lost an hour in the morning, and was looking for it 
all the rest of the day. 

One of his most notorious caricatures was Mr. Cad- 
wallader in The Author, The original of this character 
was an intimate friend of his, a Welsh gentleman named 
Ap-Rice, an enormously corpulent person, with a broad, 
staring face, an incoherent way of speaking, a loud 
voice, an awkward gait, a trick of rolling his head about 
from side to side, and of sucking his iVrists. Here was 
a splendid subject for our mimic, and he produced him 
to the life, to the huge delight of the audience, among 
which more than once was to be found Ap-Rice him- 
self, who, in happy ignorance that he was gazing upon 
his own reflection, laughed as loudly and applauded as 
vigorously a§ anybody. But it was impossible that he 
could long remain in this blissful ignorance, for so un- 
mistakable was the imitation to everybody but the 
victim, that he could not enter a coffee-room, or be seen 
in any public place, without people whispering, " There*s 
Cadwallader ! *' or someone calling after him, "This is 
my Becky, my dear Becky " — one of the phrases in the 
play. When the Welshman at length realised the fact, 
he was furious, and obtained an injunction from the Lord 
Chamberlain to restrain the performance. 


In A Trip to Calais, under the name of Lady Kitty 
Crocodile, Foote threatened to hold up to public censure 
the bigamous Duchess of Kingston. The piece was 
never played ; but in another version, called Tke 
Capttchifty he gibbeted an infamous scoundrel, Jackson, 
a hedge parson, one of the duchess s creatures. In 
revenge this fellow bribed a discharged coachman of 
Foote's to bring a hideous accusation against his master. 
The charge broke down, but it broke Foote's heart ; he 
was never the same man again. 

Ten years before this, in 1766, Foote had obtained a 
patent for his theatre at the cost of a limb. While on a 
visit at Lord Mexborough's during the hunting season, 
the Duke of York, for a frolic, mounted him upon a 
blood horse. The animal threw him, and his leg, being 
fractured in two places, had to be amputated. Consider- 
ing that he ought to make the victim of his ill-timed 
jest some amends, the Duke interceded with the King, 
and obtained a patent, by which Foote was legally per- 
mitted to keep open the Haymarket between May 14th 
and September 14th. And thus, after a vagabond 
existence of forty-six years, "the little theatre" was at 
last raised to the dignity of a lawful dramatic temple. 
Thereupon the manager made some extensive altera- 
tions and improvements in the house, which had hitherto 
been little better than a barn. Immediately after the 
Jackson affair, in 1777, he sold his interest to George 
Colman, recently one of the patentees of. Covent 
Garden, for an annuity of ;^i,6oo per annum. He 
lived only a few months afterwards. 

Before commencing his second season, Colman new- 
roofed the house, furbished up the decorations, converted 
the side-slips of the gallery into a third tier of boxes, 
and added an approach of a few feet wide, which was 


dignified by the name of a lobby. "In Footers time," 
says Colman the younger, " there was scarcely any space 
between the boxes and the pit ; so that the attention of 
the audience in this part of the theatre was frequently 
disturbed by post-horns and the out-of-door cries of 
* extraordinary news from France/ But, after all, the 
passages to the side-boxes were so narrow that two 
stout gentlemen could scarcely pass one another ; and I 
often thought it would be better to furnish my side-box 
customers with a bell to tie round their necks at the pay- 
door, to give warning of their approach and prevent 
jostling." Scenery and decorations were of the barest 
description, while the costumes, being always of the 
fashion of the day, were regulated by the means of the 

Although Harry Woodward, Baddeley, the elder 
Bannister, and other actors of note occasionally appeared 
upon the Haymarket stage, the members of Footes 
regular company, whatever might have been their merits, 
can scarcely be counted among the noted actors of the 
eighteenth century. Exceptions, however, must be made 
in favour of three comedians — first, Ned Shuter, whom 
Garrick pronounced to be the greatest comic genius he 
had ever known. Shuter was the original old Hard- 
castle and Sir Anthony Absolute. Strange to say, he 
was a follower of that most bitter enemy of the players, 
George Whitefield; he would sometimes attend five 
different meeting-houses on Sundays, and when very 
drunk could scarcely be restrained from preaching in the 
streets. This maudlin religion and his liberal donations 
so impressed the famous preacher, that on the occasion 
of one of Shuter s benefits he actually recommended the 
congregation to attend— ^W/ that once. The second, 
Weston, Foote took out of a booth at Bartholomew 


Fair. It was for him he wrote the part of Jerry Sneak, 
in The Mayor of Garrat. To judge by contemporary 
criticism, Weston must have been a wonderful actor in 
such parts as Scrub in The Beaux' Stratagem, and Abel 
Drugger, in which he was thought to excel even Garrick. 
But a long probation of miserable strolling had utterly 
demoralised him, and in 1776 he died the victim of 
habitual intemperance. Quick, George the Third's 
favourite actor, made his first appearance here as one 
of the pupils in Foote s Orators, in 1 767. His impersona- 
tions of Dogberry and Tony Lumpkin were among the 
finest the stage has seen. 

Footes patent died with him, and it was under an 
annual licence, which in 181 1 was extended from four 
to five months, that his successor opened the house. 
With the accession of the elder Colman to the mana- 
gerial throne began the golden era of " the little theatre," 
which for the next forty years and more continued in 
full meridian splendour. Three notable first appear- 
ances inaugurated Colman's first season : charming Miss 
Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, a finished actress 
of the fine ladies of comedy, but little above mediocrity 
in serious parts. Edwin, Weston's successor, and his 
equal in humour though not in art, for he was terribly 
addicted to ''gagging." Like Weston, his sottishness 
was a disease. A contemporary says : ** I have seen 
him brought to the stage-door in the bottom of a chaise, 
senseless and motionless ; if the clothes could be put 
upon him, and he was pushed on to the lamps, he 
rubbed his stupid eyes for a minute ; consciousness and 
brilliant humour awakened together ; and his acting 
seemed only the richer for the bestial indulgence that 
had overwhelmed him." Henderson, whom we have met 
b6th at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, was the most 
important of the three; his Shylock, Hamlet, and Falstaff 


— in the last some thought him superior to Quin — drew 
to Colman's treasury between four and five thousand 
pounds within a month. It was Henderson who, by 
his fine recitation, first brought Cowpers ** Johnny 
Gilpin " into popularity. He afterwards went to Drury 
Lane, but death in 1785 cut short his career, which 
promised great things. It now became the routine for 
the best performers of the two great winter theatres to 
appear at the Haymarket during the summer months, 
and actors and actresses who had successfully passed 
through a provincial probation here made their first trial 
for the highest honours of their profession. 

In 1789, failing health of body and mind obliged the 
elder Colman to relinquish the management to his son. 
All his best work had been done for the great houses, 
and his pen added nothing of permanent value to the 
repertory of the Haymarket. He died in 1794. The 
reign of George the younger commenced with a terrible 
calamity. On February 3rd, 1794,^ their Majesties com- 
manded a play at this theatre. An enormous crowd 
awaited the opening of the doors, and the rush was so 
terrible that fifteen persons were trampled to death, and 
many others greatly injured. The house was closed in 
consequence ; but people soon forget such catastrophes, 
and when the summer came the theatre was as crowded 
as ever. *George the younger almost monopolised the 
Haymarket stage, as far as new plays went, with his 
own productions. In the year 1800 the company in- 
cluded John Emery, Charles Kemble, Fawcett, Jack 
Bannister, Dicky Suett,* Farley, Barrymore, Irish John- 

^ During the rebuilding of Drury Lane, which took place this year, the 
patentees allowed the theatre to be opened under their authority for the 
winter months. 

* Those who would know something about these actors, I refer to the 
Essays of Elia^ wherein Charles Lamb has immortalised more than one of 



Stone, Mrs. Mountain, Mrs. Davenport, Mrs. Gibbs, etc. 
Elliston, whom we have met at Drury Lane, and shall 
meet again at the Olympic and the Surrey, made his 
d^but here in 1796 ; and Charles Mathews the elder, in 
1802. Liston's first appearance was in 1805. 

In that year there occurred at the Haymarket one of 
the most curious riots in theatrical annals. In 1767, 
Foote produced a burlesque, the author of which was 
never discovered, entitled. The Tailors : a Tragedy for 
Warm Weather. Dowton announced the revival of 
this piece for his benefit. As the title implies, it was 
a satire upon the sartorial craft, and upon the bills being 
issued, an indignation meeting was convened among the 
knights of the needle, who vowed to oppose the per- 
formance by might and main. Menacing letters were 
sent to Dowton telling him that seventeen thousand 
tailors would attend to hiss the piece, and one, who 
signed himself Death, added that ten thousand more 
could be found if necessary. These threats were laughed 
at by the actors ; but when night came it was discovered 
that the craft were in earnest, and that, with few excep- 
tions, they had contrived to secure every seat in the 
house, while a mob without still squeezed for admission. 
The moment Dowton appeared upon the stage there 
rose a hideous uproar, and someone threw a pair of 
shears at him. Not a word would the rioters listen to, 
nor would they accept any compromise in the way of 
changing the piece. Within howled and hissed sans 
intermission hundreds of exasperated tailors ; outside 
howled and bellowed thousands of raging tailors, who 
attempted to storm the house. So formidable did the 
riot wax, that a magistrate had to be sent for and special 
constables called out; but these were helpless against 
overwhelming odds, so a troop of Life Guards was ulti- 


mately summoned, who, after making sixteen prisoners, 
put the rest to flight. 

In the season of 1807, Charles Young, a tragedian of 
the Kemble school, who came to be acknowledged as 
John Philip s legitimate successor in classic tragedy, made 
his d6but as Hamlet, and created a marked impression. 

A curious exhibition was presented here in 18 10, 
when a middle-aged West Indian, named Robert Coates, 
who had already rendered himself the sensation of the 
town by his extraordinary costume and equipage, ap- 
peared as Romeo, dressed in a sky-blue spangled cloak, 
red pantaloons, muslin vest, a full-bottomed wig, and an 
opera-hat. His acting was on a par with his make-up, 
and convulsed the house with laughter, while as a climax, 
his small-clothes, being over tight, gave way in the 

Never was burlesque so comical as his dying scene ; 
he dragged Juliet out of th^ tomb as if she had been 
a bundle of old clothes; before falling, he spread an 
enormous silk pocket-handkerchief upon the stage, put 
his opera-hat for a pillow, and then very gently laid him- 
self down. " Ah, you may laugh," he said, in answer to 
the shriek that hailed this new device, *' but I do not 
intend to soil my nice new velvet dress upon these dirty 
boards." Shouts of "encore" followed his death, and 
he obeyed the demand with alacrity, swallowed the 
poison over again, and repeated all the symptoms of a 
violent ntal de mer with more gusto than before. The 
performance was demanded a third time, when Juliet, 
entering into the absurdity of the situation, rose up, and 
advancing to the footlights, gave a quotation from the 
play, very aptly altered : — 

" Dying is such sweet sorrow. 
That he will die again until to-morrow.'' 


This, however, was not Mr. Coates's first exhibition ; 
as he had already appeared as Lothario in The Fair 
Penitent y the audience knew what was in store for them, 
and came armed with apples, oranges, turnips, and 
carrots, which were showered upon him at the fall of the 
curtain. He was a well-known character about town, 
conspicuous from the extraordinary vehicle in which he 
rode, a carriage modelled in shape and brilliancy of hue 
upon the fairy car of a pantomime, drawn by two white 
horses, each of which had a silver cock with outspread 
wings as large as life attached to its neck. The buckles 
of his shoes and the buttons of his coat were of 
diamonds. He was supposed to be immensely rich, but 
it was afterwards discovered he had only ;^ 10,000, which 
he had devoted to these follies, and an income of ;^500 a 

Although the Haymarket was a thriving speculation, 
George Colman was alway§ in the hands of the Jews. 
In an evil moment, in 1805, he took his brother-in-law, 
Morris, into partnership, and made over to him and 
another man, named Winston, one half of the property ; 
an attorney, one Tabourdin, purchased another eighth, 
which, contrary to the conditions of sale, he secretly 
made over to Morris, whose design was to get every- 
thing into his own hands. This led to endless disputes 
and litigation, which, in 18 13, landed Colman in the 
Kings Bench, closed the theatre for a whole season, 
and finally obliged him to resign all share in the manage- 

It is a curious circumstance that the four responsible 
managers which the Haymarket had known up to this 
period were all eminent dramatic authors. Here, as we 
have seen, were produced many of Fielding's burlesques, 
and nearly all Footers excellent farces, to which posterity 


has never assigned their rightful place among the humor- 
ous and witty productions of the eighteenth century. 
Foote was the English Aristophanes, and like the great 
Athenian, was nothing if not personal; consequently 
most of his fun and satire are now incomprehensible 
without a commentary, and even then can never have 
the point for us that they had for the contemporaries of 
the victims. But for the student of manners they are 
brimful of interest and information. As I have before 
said, Colman the elder's contributions to the Haymarket 
repertoire were very insignificant, being merely farces, 
such as Polly Honeycombe, The Manager in Distress, and 
one or two alterations of old plays. George the younger 
gave most of his best work to this house, together with 
a number of dramas now fallen into oblivion. Here 
were first performed The Heir at Law, and The Moun- 
taineers. When Colman was appointed examiner of 
plays, he made himself the bugbear of actors and mana- 
gers. All *' damns," and even the words " Providence," 
•'Heaven," ''hell," *' Oh lud ! " *' paradise," were 
blotted out of the MSS. submitted to him. And his 
avarice was equal to his purism ; he would not permit a 
song, or even an address, to be interpolated without 
exacting his fee. He exercised this tyrannic jurisdiction 
until his death in 1836. 

Morris, now sole lessee, in 1820 demolished the old 
building, to erect, at a cost of ;^20,ooo, on a site a little 
to the north of it, the theatre with which we are all 
familiar. It opened on July 4th, 182 1, with The Rivals; 
Terry, Oxberry, Jones, and Miss de Camp in the princi- 
pal parts. In 1822 the company included Vining, 
Charles Kemble, Jones, EUiston, Oxberry, Mrs. West, 
Mrs. Glover, Miss Kelly, and Madame Vestris. Two 
years later it was joined by William Farren. 1825 was 


the Paul Pry year ; this comedy ran 1 14 nights to over- 
flowing houses. But what a cast it was ! Farren, Mrs. 
Waylett, Mrs. Glover, Madame Ves^tris, and Listen, 
whose only successor in the part was Wright. 

Up to this time no comic actor had ever held so high 
a position upon the London stage or received so large a 
salary as John Liston ; £^0, and even £60, a night were 
paid him in town and country ; his genius was farcical, 
extravagant, but irresistibly comical. Yet he was grave, 
and even stately in appearance, though abnormally ugly, 
and to his dying day believed that his forte was tragedy. 

The remaining years of Morris's management may be 
passed over in a few sentences. Season after season 
the same plays were performed, with now and again a 
novelty in the shape of comedy, farce, or a musical 
trifle, usually written for the particular talent of one actor 
or actress ; but audiences seemed to be content year after 
year to see William Farren in Sir Peter Teazle or Lord 
Ogleby, and other parts in old comedy, sparingly diversi- 
fied by an occasional new character. Madame Vestris, 
Mrs. Waylett, Mrs. Honey, could always draw delighted 
audiences by their charming singing and acting, while 
Liston and John Reeve kept them in a roar of laughter. 
In the stock company were the elder Vining and James 
Vining, Buckstone, and Mrs. Glover. This lady made a 
sensation here in 1833 by appearing as Falstaff in The 
Merry Wives of Windsor. The elder Kean starred 
here during several seasons, and Charles Kemble played 
a round of his famous parts in 1835. In 1836, Sergeant 
Talfourd's /on was produced with Ellen Tree in the title- 
r61e and Vandenhoff*as Adrastus, fine performances both. 

Turning over the playbills of this period, we are 
struck by an air of repose in things theatrical such as 
we experience in wandering through some quiet and little- 


frequented picture-gallery. Generation after generation 
the walls are covered by the same masterpieces growing 
mellower and mellower with time; occasionally a new 
canvas is added to their number that attracts the visitor 
for a while, but only to send him back more lovingly to 
his old favourites, the beauties of which grow upon him 
with each visit. 

Benjamin Webster, who had been a member of the 
company since 1829,^ became lessee of the Haymarket 
in 1837, and under his direction the house more than 
maintained its old prestige, both from a dramatic and a 
histrionic point of view. Phelps made his London d^but 
in the August of that year as Shy lock. He was then 
under an engagement to Macready for Covent Garden at 
;^i2 a week. So successful was he that Macready con- 
fessed that when he read the criticism in the Morning 
Herald he was depressed by it. This jealousy bore fruit 
at Covent Garden, for after Phelps had performed 
Othello, Macduff, and Jaffier with marked approbation 
from the audience, he was dropped out of the bill. 
Macready,^ Helen Faucit, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kean 
played long and frequent engagements during the next 
few years, Creswick had a three years' engagement in 
1847 at the Haymarket, while comedy was represented 
by Farren, Charles Mathews, Strickland, Buckstone, 
Tyrone Power, Mrs. Glover, Madame Vestris, Mrs. 
Nisbett, Mrs. Stirling. Here Madame Celeste, of whom 
I shall write more fully when I come to the Adelphi, 

^ His first appearance was in London at the Cobourg in 18 18. He was' 
afterwards a member of the West London Company. In 1824 he was at 
Drury Lane ; it was Undertaking the part of Pompey in Measure for 
Measure^ at a very few hours' notice, in consequence of Harley's illness, 
that first brought him into notice. 

* Macready played his last engagement here in 185 1, previous to his fare- 
well performance at Drury Lane. 


made her first great mark as an actress in such dramas 
as The Wept of the Wishton Wish, Marie Ducange^ and 
others of the romantic school. 

Among the dramatic productions of this period were 
Lord Lytton's Money ^ Douglas Jerrold s charming Time 
Works Wonders, several of Westland Marston's finest 
plays, Heart of the World, 1847, Strathmore; Sheridan 
Knowles's Love Chase, and Charles Reade s and Tom 
Taylor s Masks and Faces; Mrs. Stirling's Peg Woffing- 
ton and Anne Carew in A Sheep in Wolfs Clothings 
brought out at the Lyceum in 1857, were perhaps her 
finest impersonations. 

In February, 1852, Barry Sullivan made his first 
appearance in London at the Haymarket as Hamlet, 
with some measure of success ; he afterwards acted in 
other plays. He returned to the little theatre three 
years later, and played a round of leading parts with 
Helen Faucit. He was afterwards seen at Drury Lane. 
Sullivan was a competent actor of the old bow-wow 
school ; but though an enormous favourite in Ireland 
and the provinces, he never took any firm hold of the 
metropolitan public. 

Webster made many improvements in the Haymarket: 
he widened the proscenium eleven feet, and introduced 
gas, this being the last theatre in London in which 
candles were used. 

When Webster went over to the Adelphi in 1853, the 
Haymarket passed into the hands of John Baldwin 
Buckstone, who, as the author (in all) of about 150 
plays, and as a low comedian of the first rank, was 
already a great stage favourite. Twenty-five years 
had elapsed since he made his first bow at the Adelphi 
as Bobby Trot, in his own drama of Luke the Labourer; 
previous to which he had been a favourite at the Surrey, 


and during the latter years of Morris's management had 
been connected, both as author and actor, with the 
theatre of which he now became the manager. 

A charming actress and a beautiful singer, Miss 
Featherstone, afterwards Mrs. Howard Paul, came over 
here from the Strand in October, 1854, to play Captain 
Macheath in The Beggars Opera. A lovely woman, with 
a fine figure and the dash and fire of ^ jeune premier ^ she 
looked and acted the part splendidly, and her singing of 
the niusic was little inferior to Sims Reeves', of whom 
she used to give a wonderful imitation. For many years 
Miss Featherstone was a great favourite on the London 
stage in this character, as Apollo in MidaSy and other 
parts. In 1869 she performed a tour de force at Drury 
Lane, doubling Hecate with Lady Macbeth. 

J. L. Toole made an appearance here in the same 
year as Simmons in The Spitalfields Weaver^ one of 
Wright's best parts, but I think he played only a few 

Covent Garden having been converted into an opera 
house, and Drury Lane being little better than a huge 
show, Buckstone was enabled to gather about him all 
the available comedy talent of the day, and although it 
was not equal to that at the command of his predeces- 
sors, we look back upon the performances of the old 
comedies under his management with a belief that, for 
ensemble, we shall not see the like again. The Shake- 
spearian clown of the stage died with Compton, who 
joined the new lessee in his first season, and for eighteen 
years remained true to his chief. He founded his style 
upon that of Harley, who had received the traditions of 
King and Woodward. Such a Touchstone, such a clown 
in the Twelfth Night, it is hopeless to look for now; 
they had the true Shakespearian flavour — dry, quaint, 


antique. And his creations in modern comedy and 
farce were equally admirable. Quite as excellent in his 
way was Buckstone: his Tony Lumpkin, his Bob Acres, 
his Backbite, his Sir Andrew Aguecheek, still remain 
unrivalled. Clever actors have played them since, and 
have made us laugh heartily ; but their humour is quite 
a different thing to the author's humour, it is the humour 
of the nineteenth century masquerading in the costume 
of the eighteenth. Indeed, it is that distinction which 
renders all representations of old comedy at the present 
day so unsatisfactory ; the modern actor is so much the 
child of his age that he cannot even simulate the form 
of any other. 

A famous actor, William Farren, who had been before 
the public for many years, and whom we shall meet 
again at the Olympic and the Strand, took his leave of 
the stage in 1855, surrounded by his old associates. He 
survived until 1861. 

One of the earlier successes of Buckstone s manage- 
ment was Perea Nena.^ Amy Sedgwick, in the summer 
of i8|7, made a great success as Hesther Grazebrook 
in Tom Taylors Unequal Match. In the style 
of entertainment the new lessee followed closely in 
the steps of his predecessors ; revivals of old comedies 
were relieved by the production of new ones, of melo- 
drama, domestic drama, a sprinkling of tragedy, while 
not infrequently the bill of fare would consist of four 
light pieces — a comedietta, perhaps by Dance, and three 

Buckstone's first season extended over five years, and 
during that period the house was not closed one night 
when the law permitted it to be open. That the profits 
were as remarkable as the length is very doubtful. 

' See p. 205 


The Haymarket was at this time a very late house, 
being usually open until one o'clock in the morning. In 
the opera season — those were the days of half price^ — 
numbers, after leaving Her Majesty's, would go over to 
the little theatre opposite to see some favourite actor 
in a popular character. Wright was paid ;^50 a week 
for some time to appear in a farce about midnight; 
the receipts after that hour averaging £iQO a week. 
But the conditions of social life are entirely changed ; 
most people lived in London proper in those days, or at 
least within a mile or two of the centre, and were not 
afraid of a little walk; there was no rush for the train or 
omnibus; men and their wives walked leisurely home, or 
adjourned to some quiet place for a little suppei*. They 
went to the theatre to enjoy the play and the little treat 
afterwards; and not because it was *'the thing" to see 
some mediocre, production that had been running five 
hundred or eight hundred nights. Very few people go to 
the theatre nowadays for mere pleasure ; you have only 
to watch the bored expression on the faces of returning 
playgoers in the trains to be assured that they have de- 
rived little enjoyment from their visit. And it is the 
same with all other exhibitions ; the number of people 
who do bitter penance yearly by gazing upon the walls 
of the Royal Academy would fill a martyrology. But 
whatever is "the go" for the hour everybody, from the 
duchess to the greengrocer's lady, must follow ; individ- 
uality is dying out ; everyone you meet dresses in the 
same manner, talks in the same manner, does the same 
things, goes to the same places — ^and that is why certain 
playhouses fill. 

Edwin Booth made his first appearance in England at 
the Haymarket as Sir Giles Overreach in 1861, and 

1 Half price was not established at the Haymarket until about 1835. 


afterwards appeared as Shylock and Richelieu, but with- 
out making any monetary success ; though at that 
time, or near about it, Gustavus Brooke was drawing 
crowded houses at Drury Lane. 

The fortunes of the theatre were at the very lowest 
ebb, and a crash was imminent when, as a mere pis 
alter, Edward Sothern from Laura Keene s was engaged 
to appear November nth, 1861, as Lord Dundreary in 
Tom Taylor s American Cousin. 

Sothern 's American success in the part was one of 
those instances in which greatness is thrust upon a man 
against his will. As the piece was originally written, 
Asa Trenchard, created by Jefferson, was the principal 
character ; and Sothern, at that time the light comedian 
at Laura Keene s, was so disgusted with the part of the 
silly lord, that he was induced to play it only on con- 
dition that he would be allowed to gag and do as he 
pleased in it. So he resolved to turn it into ridicule, 
and make it perfectly unendurable to the audience. He 
gagged, he hopped, he lisped, fully expecting to evoke a 
storm of disapprobation. To his astonishment, the 
audience laughed and applauded, and professional in- 
stinct told him that he had made a hit instead of a fiasco. 
Night after night he added some new gag, some new 
absurdity, until the once despised part overshadowed 
every other and was the thing of the comedy. 

Edwin Booth ended his engagement on the Saturday 
night, and on Monday Our American Cousin was pro- 
duced without any previous announcement. On the 
first night it was such a deadly fiasco that Buckstone 
put up a notice in the green-room : ** Next Thursday, 
She Stoops to Conquer^ Charles Mathews, who was 
in front, went behind and said, '* Buckstone, you push 
this piece." '' But it is an offence to all the swells." 


"Don't you believe it," cried Mathews; "you push it, 
and it will please them more than anybody else." Buck- 
stone was induced to give it further trial. The critics 
had not been slow in recognising the originality of the 
conception. John Oxenford, in the Times ^ took the 
exact measure of the actor and the part when he said 
that, although generations of fops had been seen upon 
the London stage, no fop exactly like Lord Dundreary 
had ever before appeared. " To test him by anything 
in the actual world would be to ignore his special merit, 
which consists in giving a conventional notion the most 
novel and fantastical expression that can be imagined." 

Although those who came to the theatre heartily 
enjoyed this new dramatic sensation, it was irot, how- 
ever, until the Cattle Show week brought the country 
people to the house that the performance took any real 
grip upon the public. The piece was withdrawn before 
Christmas, and Sothern was engaged to appear after 
the run of the pantomime, for at that time, and much 
more recently, every London theatre produced its Christ- 
mas annual. '' But don't come back with that infernal 
Lord Dundreary," were Buckstone's parting words. 

The pantomime was evidently a failure, for it had to 
be backed up by five-act plays and a lady star — long, 
since extinguished. Sothern returned on January 27th, 
and as Lord Dundreary had been much talked about in 
the interim, he reopened in that character to a crowded 
house. From that night the craze, that most of us have 
heard about, set in, and the first of '' the long runs " was 
inaugurated by one of the worst plays ever perpetrated 
by a competent playwright, and one of the most otUri 
performances that ever caught the public taste. It ran 
four hundred nights, and Buckstone realised ;^30,ooo 
clear profit by it. 


Sothern's next original part was David Garrick in 
Robertson s comedy of that name, which, in the hands 
of Sir Charles Wyndham, is still a trump card. It was 
brought out in the April of 1864. The author of Caste 
was then an unknown playwright, a hack translator 
of French dramas for Lacey, the theatrical bookseller, 
and he received only £i^o for his work, at least that was 
the sum stipulated, though Sothern behaved very hand- 
somely when success was assured. With provincial 
starring engagements between each new play, Sothern 
appeared in Brother Sam at the end of 1864, and in 
Westland Marston's Favourite of Fortune and Robert- 
son s Home, a version of L' Aventuritrey 1865. These 
plays, with The Hero of Romance (1868), were, after 
Dundreary, the most successful of his impersonations. 

The first appearance in England of Madame Beatrice 
in a version of that fine play. Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle, 
October, 1864, should not be passed unnoticed. Miss 
Madge Robertson made her first appearance in London 
here, in 1865, as Ophelia to Walter Montgomery's 
Hamlet. In the meantime, however, Buckstone had 
become a mere cipher in the management, and, as is 
so frequently the case, the ally he had called in to his 
succour now pushed him from his throne. 

No man with less pretensions to histrionic excellence 
than Sothern ever made a great success. As a comedian 
he was decidedly inferior to Charles Mathews, while 
in serious parts he was mediocrity personified ; in fact, 
he was Lord Dundreary in everything he attempted, 
even in Claude Melnotte. He was the fashion, how- 
ever ; he was received in the best society, hunted with 
dukes, was the guest of millionaires, and, aoove all, was 
ever overflowing with high animal spirits and a bonhomie 
that rendered him as great a social as he was a histrionic 


Sothem's popularity, however, was greatly on the 
wane at the close of the "sixties," and in 1870 the pro- 
duction of Gilbert s The Palace of Truths which was 
followed by Pygmalion and Galatea, in which Madge 
Robertson (Mrs. Kendal) first made her reputation, once 
more raised the sinking fortunes of the Haymarket. 
But charmingly original as were these fairy comedies, 
the vein was but a shallow one, it was soon exhausted, 
and the third of the series, Tke Wicked Worlds 1873, 
failed to draw. 

Buckstone s next ally was J. S. Clarke, whose won- 
derfully grotesque performance. Major Wellington de 
Boots, had already rendered him a great favourite with 
London audiences. Poor Buckstone was one of the old 
type of managers, extravagant and unbusinesslike, and 
for years lived upon the sufferance of Jews, and of 
Christians scarcely as merciful. Once more the ally 
became the master, and the name of John Baldwin 
Buckstone in 1878 disappeared from the Haymarket 
playbills to give place to that of John S. Clarke. A 
farewell benefit was arranged for the veteran actor in 
August, 1879. Money was to be the play, and he was 
to appear as the Old Member in the Club scene ; but 
before the date fixed Buckstone was stricken with 
paralysis, and the idea had to be abandoned. Later 
on another benefit was arranged, and Barry Sullivan 
appeared as Benedick. 

In that same year Adelaide Neilson appeared here as 
Juliet and Rosalind with the most brilliant success. 
Unhappily it proved to be her last engagement in 
London. By-and-by came the news of her untimely 
death in Paris. There is nothing else in Clarke's 
management that calls for notice here. 

In 1880 the Haymarket, reconstructed and rendered 


the most luxuriously splendid theatre of the time, came 
under the Bancroft management. The disturbances on 
the opening night, February ist, during the perform- 
ance of Money ^ augured ill for the new regime. A keen 
judgment that seldom erred, or when it did, hastened to 
retire from its false position, a sympathy that usually 
anticipated public taste and feeling, and had been one of 
the secrets of the Bancrofts' success at the Prince of 
Waless, here seemed to wholly desert them. The 
abolition of the pit was a false move, and for ever 
wrecked the popularity of the management. • Nor were 
the performances to be compared with those which had 
been given in Tottenham Street. The best of the old 
company, the Kendals, Hare, John Clayton, had become 
managers on their own account ; again, the actors, 
accustomed to a very small stage, seemed lost in the 
larger area of their new home, and oscillated between 
extravagance on one side and inaudibility on the other. 

The reception of the new lessee was about the 
stormiest that had been heard in a theatre for many 
years. Mr. Bancroft stated his case fairly enough, 
but he did not satisfy his old supporters, who ever after 
had a grudge against him. The pit has always been 
one of the most time-honoured of English theatrical 
institutions, and it was particularly so at the Haymarket. 
In no theatre in London, except the Lyceum, would the 
innovation have raised so formidable an opposition. 
As an instance, Mrs. John Wood abolished the pit at 
the St James's without exciting a murmur; and the 
Opera Comique had not one worthy of the name ; but 
the Haymarket was always what is styled a '* pit-house," 
that part of the theatre being invariably well attended, 
and by a good class of persons ; it was these who 
resented being excluded from their favourable resort. 


When the Robertson comedies were transferred to 
the Haymarket, they were like Dutch pictures expanded 
to a large canvas, and the real flimsiness of the material 
was fatally apparent ; though it must be added, in defence 
of the works themselves, that the cast was inferior, 
that Mrs. Bancroft, especially as Mary Netley, in Ours, 
had fallen into exaggerations to make the scenes "go," 
and that, above all, the school had seen its day, and that 
a more robust style of play as well as of acting was 
coming into vogue. 

Most of the old Prince of Wales's successes, Money, 
OurSy Caste, School, Masks and Faces, Diplomacy, School 
for Scandal, and one of Buckstone's famous pieces. 
The Overland Route, were repeated here. Of the 
new plays produced, Fedora, perhaps, in which Mrs. 
Bernard Beere gave a performance second only to 
Sarah Bernhardt s, was the most successful. An attempt. 
May, 1884, to present in the home of traditional old 
comedy a rendering of The Rivals, archaeologically 
correct as a picture, but entirely modern in arrangement 
and in histrionic treatment, deservedly failed. Pinero s 
Lord and Commons, 1883, was produced here, but it was 
not one of his successful works. 

On the 20th of July, 1885, Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft 
retired from the management of the Haymarket, and 
from the stage as well. It was the most important 
theatrical farewell that had taken place, perhaps, since 
Macready s, for actors, as a rule, nowadays linger super- 
fluous upon the scenes of their old triumphs, most fre- 
quently until their powers are exhausted, and a younger 
generation is cynical about their traditions, so that their 
death or disappearance excites little attention. But 
Mrs. Bancroft retired in her full maturity, though it 
cannot be denied that during the last few years she had 



developed a tendency to over-accentuation, the growth 
of which has marred so many fine actors and actresses 
of the past. 

On that parting night all differences between manager 
and audience were forgotten ; from two o'clock in the 
afternoon crowds gathered about the doors, anxious to 
do honour to those who had so admirably catered for 
their amusement and intellectual gratification during 
twenty years, and to catch a last glimpse of the charm- 
ing actress, who, at different theatres, had been the 
delight of London audiences for nearly thirty. The bill 
was made up of selections from Money, Masks and FaceSy 
London Assurance, supported by the b&nificiaireSy Charles 
Wyndham, Coghlan, Arthur Cecil, Ellen Terry, Mrs. 
Kendal, John Clayton, Mrs. Stirling, and a host of 
others. Henry Irving delivered an address, and Toole 
made one of his droll speeches, in which he referred 
to his first meeting with Marie Wilton on the stage 
of the Lyceum at the first rehearsal of Belphegor, when 
she was a trembling debutante unknown to London. 
Both Mr. — he was not Sir Squire in those days — and 
Mrs. Bancroft played engagements in after years, the 
former at the Lyceum, in the The Dead Heart, and both 
in the revival of Diplomacy at the Garrick, where the 
lady also reappeared as Lady Franklin in a revival of 
Money and on one or two other occasions. 

The Haymarket was reopened in September by 
Messrs. Russell and Bashford — the latter had been the 
Bancrofts acting manager— with a version of Hugh 
Conway's Dark Days, but it was not successful. Nor 
was the sporting drama, Hard Htt^ in which Willard 
and Marion Terry acted very finely; nor Mrs. Brown- 
Potter and Kyrle Bellew in a revival of the old Prince 
of Wales s play, Man and Wife. 


Another fiasco was Nadjesda, a powerful but uneven 
play, the first act dealing with a risky situation, in which 
Emily Rigl, an Austrian actress of great ability, was 
treated with a sample of British ruffianism from pit and 
gallery that aroused a storm of indignation from all 
decent people. It was as Prince Zabouroff, in this 
drama, that Beerbohm Tree first threw off certain 
crudities of manner which marred his earlier per- 
formances, and gave us one of those studies of re- 
strained and consummate art with which he has been 
identified ever since. A great success was made with 
Sir Charles Young s powerful drama, Jim the Penman, 
which was performed in the seasons of 1886-7. 

But the Russell- Bashford regime was a brief one, and 
in the autumn of 1887 the historic playhouse passed 
into the hands of Mr. Beerbohm Tree. Among the 
most notable of his productions were Haddon Chambers's 
Captain Swift, a striking play that afforded the manager 
one of his finest impersonations ; A Mans Shadow 
(1889), in which Miss Julia Neilson made her first hit 
as Julie, and the veteran, James Fernandez, thrilled and 
astonished the house by his great acting as De Noirville, 
the advocate; A Village Priest (1889), in which Rose 
Leclercq, as the mother, greatly distinguished herself. In 
The Dancing Girl (1891), Julia Neilson attained the 
high-water mark of her reputation, and it was a 
prodigious success. The same cannot be said of The 
Tempter, a picturesque, poetical, mediaeval play, ex- 
quisitely produced, by the same author. But Trilby 
created a furore; Hypatia (1893) was staged with a 
classic beauty beyond all praise, Oscar Wilde's two 
best comedies, A Wcmian of No Importance and An 
Ideal Husband, the latter under Lewis Waller s tenancy, 
were brought out in 1893-4. There were revivals of 


The Merry Wives of Windsor, of Henry IV. (1896), 
for Tree to play Falstaff, and Hamlet, in which Mrs. 
Beerbohm Tree gave the finest realistic rendering 
of Ophelia's mad scene tha,t I can remember. There 
were other plays, yi?^^ a Dreams, A Bunch of Violets, 
etc., each and all produced with an artistic care, a 
perfection of detail, and a poetic insight that have only 
been exceeded by his later work. 

Mr. Tree having passed over to his new theatre, 
Messrs. Harrison and Cyril Maude took up the lease 
of the Haymarket in October, 1896, and started their 
campaign with a success, a version of Stanley Weyman's 
Under the Red Robe ; The Little Minister was another 
great draw ; revivals of She Stoops to Conquer, The 
Rivals, the inevitable School for Scandal, Caste, The 
Black Tulip, a new version of The Ladies Battle, all of 
which owed so much of their success to the delightful 
acting of Winifred Emery and the artistic performances 
of her husband. Longest run of all was The Second 
in Command. One of the latest revivals was The 
Clandestine Marriage, in which Cyril Maude played 
with his usual artistic care the old beau, Lord Ogleby. 
Cousin Kate, by a new writer, is keeping up the extra- 
ordinary run of luck that has followed nearly all the 
productions of the present management. Mrs. Cyril 
Maude's unfortunate absence, however, has left a void 
that there is little prospect of being satisfactorily filled 




The Olympic, 1805-99 — Its History — With some account of the rise of 
the minor Theatres and the Repeal of the Licensing Act of 1737. 

THE rise of the London minor stage and the fall of 
the great patent houses give us one of the most 
curious chapters in theatrical history. In a country like 
France, where the histrionic art is a part of the national 
life, such a collapse as that of Drury Lane and Covent 
Garden would have been impossible; but in England, 
where art of all kinds is an outside matter, only to be 
thought about when business is done, in a nation in 
which the great mass of all classes, when they take 
amusement, require only something to laugh at, or 
something " to stretch the gaping eyes of idiot wonder," 
perhaps the most remarkable part of the case is that the 
patent houses should have held their ground so long ; 
and, indeed, as I have endeavoured to show in the 
preceding pages, it was only through pandering to the 
aforesaid vulgar tastes with raree-show and buffoonery 
that, after Garrick s time, these managers averted the 
ever-threatening ruin. 

During the sixty or seventy years that succeeded the 
passing of Sir Robert Walpole's Licensing Act the 
metropolis grew apace, and though two theatres might 
have sufficed for 1737, it by no means followed that 
they were adequate to the requirements of the earlier 
decades of the next century. Why should East London, 



South London, North London, which were every day 
extending farther and farther away from Central London, 
not enjoy theatrical amusements if the people desired 
them ? Such a plea it was impossible to deny ; and one 
after another new theatres were allowed to open during 
the summer months, under the permission of the Lord 
Chamberlain. ^ 

But, in order to evade the Licensing Act, the Italian 
word ** Burletta" was introduced to designate the new 
style of theatrical entertainment. It proved a very 
elastic term, comprehending opera, serious and comic, 
farce, pantomime, melodrama, burlesque, in fine, any- 
thing except tragedy and comedy; the one hard and fast 
rule being that a certain number of songs should be 
introduced, and the notes of a piano occasionally struck 
throughout the performance. Since the days of Garrick 
a new theatrical audience had been gradually developing. 
Until the close of the eighteenth century, or perhaps 
more correctly speaking the opening years of the nine- 
teenth, the lower orders of our great city cared little 
for indoor amusements. Pugilism, cock and dog 
fighting, bear and bull baiting, and such-like sports and 
pastimes, were alone to their tastes; and even the 
galleries of Drury Lane and Covent Garden were 
mostly filled, only excepting the servants of the nobility, 
by the people who now patronise the dress-circle ; the 
pit was the* resort of barristers, doctors, and critics, and 
only nobility, or the richest gentry, frequented the 
boxes. Thus, with the exception, perhaps, of panto- 
mime time, the audience in its entirety was an educated 
one. When Sheridan brought horses and elephants to 
Drury Lane, and the Covent Garden management had 
to follow suit, a lower order of spectators was attracted ; 
and as the working classes grew less brutal in their 


habits, they occasionally varied the delights of the cock- 
pit and the bull-baiting field with the tamer recreation of 
the playhouse- 

But poetry and wit had no charms for these new 
patrons of the drama; they required something more 
highly spiced, something that would produce in a milder 
form the excitement of seeing a dog gored to death by a 
bull, or a couple of bantams spurring each other to 
shreds. What kindred feeling had they with the woes 
of Romeo and Juliet^ or with the fine ladies and gentle- 
men of the School for Scandal? Such people were not of 
their world ; they wanted mimic murders and deeds of 
violence with all the coarse realism of the Newgate 
Calendar to satisfy their old appetite for blood, and if 
there were woes and love-making and jesting, it must be 
of the kind with which thpy were familiar. And it was 
not long before caterers sprang up ready and eager to 
supply such viands. 

Yet it was not the lower orders alone who were 
bringing about these changes in theatrical amusements ; 
the tastes of the great bulk of the playgoing public were 
tending in the same direction. Both in literature and 
the drama the classic was everywhere receding before 
the romantic. Fielding and Miss Burney were forsaken 
for Mrs. Radclifie and " Monk " Lewis ; we were 
invaded by the German school of horrors ; everything 
seemed flat and insipid that was not flavoured with 
them, and the great theatres found that such pieces as 
A Tale of Mystery ^ Raymond and Agnes, The Castle 
Spectre, The Miller and his Men, were more attractive 
than Shakespeare or Sheridan. 

Here was the door by which the Licensing Act could 
be evaded; and to supply this new demand, and to cater 
for these new audiences, small theatres began to be 


built, first in Central London and afterwards in more 
remote districts where, as there were neither trains nor 
omnibuses, nor any other cheap modes of conveyance \x\ 
those days, they secured a veritable monopoly. It was 
no wonder the managers of the patent houses, with their 
enormous rentals and expenses, fought desperately 
against this innovation, which was decimating their pits 
and galleries, while fashion had almost deserted the 
dramatic for the lyric stage. Within twenty or thirty 
years from their first starting the summer houses were 
firmly established. Although their liabilities were 
smaller, the minor managers had as hard a fight for 
existence and complained as bitterly of the lack of public 
support as did their aristocratic brethren at Drury Lane 
and Covent Garden ; but they were under the impres- 
sion that if they could only. succeed in abolishing the 
privileges of those houses, all would be well with them ; 
while the patent holders, on their side, believed that 
could they fully exact the monopoly given them by law, 
golden days would return. Thus, while ** the minors " 
were petitioning the Lord Chamberlain to relieve them 
of all restrictions, the patentees were constantly urging 
him to abolish these obnoxious rivals altogether. 

As I have previously stated, the minor theatres were 
privileged to be open only during the summer months, 
when Drury Lane and Covent Garden were closed, but 
gradually the seasons of the latter were extended be- 
yond their usual time, which brought forth remonstrances 
from the other side, who, to retaliate, continued to per- 
form after the great houses had commenced their winter 
campaign. As the patent theatres, however, fell from 
their high estate and passed into the hands of mere 
adventurers, who devoted them to opera, wild-beast 
shows, circuses, and melodrama, rather than to those 


plays by which they held their privileges, the incongruity 
of the monopoly became more and more apparent. 
Most actors were in favour of unrestricted competition, 
not from any artistic consideration, but because it would 
give them a wider field for their vanity and profit ; even 
William Macready petitioned Parliament to that effect. 
As time went on, the Press, the public, and the House 
of Commons began to take sides in the discussion, and 
mostly favoured free trade in things theatrical. Senti- 
mentalists urged that the Licensing Act was inimical to 
the intellectual advancement of the people, and drew 
charming pictures of Southwark, Whitechapel, and 
Shoreditch crowding in their thousands to listen to the 
words of "the immortal bard" and to laugh over the 
wit of Sheridan ; blood and murder, vulgar farce, and 
inane pantomimes, they prophesied, would no longer be 
tolerated, and the golden age of the drama would be 
indeed inaugurated. 

During several years influential men, Sir Edward 
Bulwer Lytton among the rest, had been urging upon 
the House the necessity of a change in the law ; but it 
was a long time before our legislators could be induced 
to appoint a Committee to investigate the question ; 
actors and other experts were examined, and at length, 
in 1843, Sir James Graham introduced and carried a 
Bill, by which the patent privileges were abolished, and 
all London theatres placed under the jurisdiction of the 
Lord Chamberlain. No sooner did this Act become 
law than the managers of the minor theatres made a 
rush upon Shakespeare. But a very brief experiment 
convinced them that they had been reckoning without 
their audiences, and that although Whitechapel or 
Shoreditch might occasionally ' like to see a " well- 
mouthed actor" in Richard, Macbeth, or Hamlet, it 


preferred for its staple fare The Murder of Maria 
Martin and The Bandit of the Blind Mine. In only 
one outlying theatre, Sadler's Wells, did the new Act in 
any way fulfil the expectations of its admirers, and there, 
indeed, it scored an absolute triumph. 

From an artistic point of view the change, though in- 
evitable and unavoidable, was not an unmixed blessing ; 
it scattered the talent that should have been concen- 
trated, it lowered the standard of excellence, and it 
fostered the vanity and petty ambition of men who, with 
just ability enough to represent Banquo or Laertes, 
aspired to Macbeth and Hamlet. Histrionic talent has 
never been so abounding in any age or country that 
competent artists for the representation of high tragedy 
and comedy could be found more than sufficient for two 
or three theatres. 

The first of the West End minor theatres that won a 
prominent position was the Wych Street house. In the 
reign of Elizabeth, Drury Lane was known as the Via 
de Aldwych. Drury House, built towards the end of 
the sixteenth century, gave a new title to the thorough- 
fare, running northward, while the southern end came 
to be known as Wych Street. Close to Drury rose 
Craven House, erected by the Earl of Craven for the 
reception of his bride, James the Firsts daughter, the 
titular Queen of Bohemia. It was a fine mansion, shut 
in by iron gates, and with extensive grounds in the rear. 
Long after its fellows had disappeared, and ** the drabs 
and bloods of Drury Lane" had become a byword, 
Craven House still stood, shorn of its gardens, and 
converted into a public-house that bore the name of 
** The Queen of Bohemia," in memory of its former 
mistress. To save the building from falling it was 
pulled down in 1805, and, upon the ground being 


cleared, a portion of the site was taken on lease by 
Philip Astley, the founder of the Amphitheatre/ ao long 
known by his name, for the purpose of raising a circus 

The Olympic Pavilion was built chiefly out of the 
materials of an old French warship, the Ville de Paris — 
Wheel de Parry Astley called it — which was sold, with 
some other naval prizes, about this time. No sooner 
was the lease signed than Astley proceeded to collect 
workmen out of the neigh^bouring public-houses and set 
them to work. Seated in a little one-horse chaise, 
that he used to drive about in, but which was scarcely 
capacious enough to contain his very rotund figure, 
from morning until night, in all weathers, he directed 
the operations, and saw that there was no idling or 
shirking. There was very little brickwork in the build- 
ing ; the yards and bowsprits of the ship formed the 
uprights and supports, the deck was used for the stage 
and flooring, the. sides for the outward walls, while the 
roof was of tin. 

The Pavilion was in the form of a tent. There was 
one tier of boxes, a pit, which surrounded the circle, 
and, at; the back of the pit, a gallery. There was no 
orchestra, the musicians being placed in two stage-boxes 
facing one another. The entire cost was only ;^8oo. 
Obtaining a licence, through the influence of Queen 
Chaflotte, for music, dancing, burlettas, pantomime, and 
equestrian exhibitions, Astley opened the place in 1806. 

But it was a complete failure from the beginning. 
No attraction could draw the public to " Astley *s Middle- 
sex Amphitheatre," not even pugilistic exhibitions by 
such renowned heroes of the prize-ring as ** Dutch 
Sam," and others of equal celebrity ; so, after losing 

^ See " Astley's Amphitheatre." 


about ten thousand pounds, Astley tried to let it, and, in 
1813, sent circulars round to the various theatrical 
managers describing its peculiar advantages. 

" We'll throw the bone, Johnny,*' he said to his son, 
" and let the dogs fight for it ; someone will snap at it" 

The dog that did snap at it was that eccentric genius 
EUiston, whom we have already met at Drury Lane. 
**The very thing for me," he exclaimed, **so near to 
Drury Lane ; it will be quite a family circle." He 
entered into negotiations with Astley, and arranged to 
give him ;^2,8oo for the building, and an annuity of 
;^20 during the remainder of his life. Not long was he 
burdened with the latter payment, as Astley died in the 
following year. EUiston's opening night was April 19th, 
18 1 3, the name of the house being changed from the 
** Olympic Pavilion'* to ** Little Drury Lane." The 
rivalry of an actor so popular as Robert William 
Elliston was not to be ignored by the patent houses, 
the managers of which presented a memorial to the Lord 
Chamberlain, setting forth that the licence granted to 
the late Philip Astley extended only for the time during 
which the Amphitheatre in Westminster Road was 
closed, and was restricted to equestrian exhibitions. The 
result of this representation was the closing of the 
theatre in the following month. But Elliston was not a 
man to be easily beaten ; he had good friends at Court, 
through whose influence he obtained a new licence, 
under which he reopened the house in the December 
of the same year; but, as a sacrifice to the suscepti- 
bilities of the great managers, he reverted to the old 
name — the Olympic Pavilion. 

This minor stage only just missed the honour of in- 
troducing Edmund Kean to London ; during the in- 
terregnum Elliston had been in correspondence with 



him. The following letter from the famous actor, who 

was at the time only a poor unknown stroller, steeped 

to the lips in poverty, is so full of suggestion that it 

needs no comment : — 

''Barnstaple, Oct. 2nd, 18 13. 

"Sir, — I have this moment received your proposal for the 
Wych Street Theatre, id est, Little Drury Lane, and much 
deplore your letter not finding me. Neglect does not rank in 
the catalogue of my follies. The terms Miss Tidswell, by your 
authority, mentioned to me is the superintending of the stage, 
the whole of the principal line of business under all denomina- 
tions of acting, and an equal division of the house on the night 
of my benefit, with three guineas a week salary. The pecuniary 
terms, I own, do not justify the renown of your establishment; 
but I place so firm a reliance on your reputed liberality that, on 
the proof of my humble abilities and assiduity towards the 
promotion of your interests, you will not be unmindful of mine. 
I accept, Sir, your present proposal, simply requesting you will 
name what time you expect me in London, etc. 

" Your obedient servt, 

"Edmund Kean." 

Until he had obtained the licence it was impossible for 
ElUston to fix the date of opening, and in the meantime 
Kean had received an offer for Drury Lane, which he at 
once accepted. Thereupon EUiston asserted his prior 
claim, and no entreaties from the poor stroller could turn 
him from prosecuting it. His conduct, to say the least, 
was harsh and uncharitable, as the name of Edmund 
Kean on the playbill at that time was not worth a 
shilling. The dispute, which very nearly lost Kean his 
chance at Drury Lane, was ultimately arranged by his 
finding a substitute, an actor named Bernard; but as 
EUiston had to pay this man ;^5 a week, Kean under- 
took to give the £2 extra out of his own pocket. When 
Robert William heard of the little man's success he, no 
doubt, greatly repented of his lenity. 


Pantomimes, ballets, farces, melodramas — ^all bearing 
th^ orthodox title of '*burlettas" — were, as in other minor 
theatres, the stock bill of fare, and to these were added 
such other attractions as tight-rope dancers, performing 
dogs, and one Baker, a professional pedestrian, who had 
walked a thousand miles in twenty days, appeared here to 
sing songs and dance hornpipes in "the identical shoes "• 
in which he had performed his famous walk. In 1818 
the manager again roused the active wrath of the great 
patentees by playing Milman's Fazio ^ a five-act tragedy ; 
but although all the influence of the powerful Drury Lane 
committee was brought to bear against him, he once 
more survived the storm, and came out of the struggle 
stronger than ever. In that year he rebuilt the theatre 
at a cost of ;^2,5oo, and engaged a superior company, 
in which Wrench, the light comedian, and Mrs. Edwin, 
one of the finest melodramatic actresses of her day, were 
included. To add still further to the attractions, he 
himself acted here for the first time, in a new piece 
called Rochester, which, together with an extravaganza, 
ran through the entire season, drawing large and fashion- 
able audiences. 

Planch^, some of whose earliest dramatic efforts were 
produced at the Olympic, tells a good story of EUiston 
at this period. He had written for him a sort of speak- 
ing pantomime called Little Red Riding Hood. On the 
first night everything went wrong in the mechanical 
department. When the performance was over, Elliston 
summoned all the carpenters and scene-shifters on to 
the stage, in front of a cottage scene, having a practi- 
cable door and window; leading Planch^ forward, and 
standing in the centre, with his back to the footlights, 
he harangued them in the most grandiloquent manner, 
expatiating on the enormity of their offence, their in- 


gratitude to the man whose bread they were eating, the 
disgrace they had brought upon the theatre, the cruel 
injury they had inflicted on the young and promising 
author by his side ; then, pointing in the most tragical 
attitude to his wife and daughters, who were in his box, 
he bade them look upon the family they had ruined, 
and, burying his face in his handkerchief to stifle his 
sobs, passed slowly through the door 'of the scene, leav- 
ing his audience silent, abashed, and somewhat affected, 
yet rather relieved at being let off with a lecture. The 
next minute the casement was thrown violently open, 
and thrusting out his head, his face all scarlet with fury, 
he roared out, ** I discharge you all." " I feel uttei;ly 
unable," says the writer, **to convey an idea of this 
ludicrous scene, and I question whether anyone un- 
acquainted with the man, his voice, action, and wonderful 
facial expression, could thoroughly realise the glorious 
absurdity of it from verbal description." 

In 1 8 19, EUiston became the manager of Drury Lane, 
and, according to the articles of his lease, he was pro- 
hibited from being connected with the management of 
any other theatre. During tlje next five years the 
Olympic conducted four entrepreneurs to the bankruptcy 
court In 1824, . Elliston having lost everything at 
Drury Lane, the mortgagees sold the Olympic Pavilion, 
building, scenery, wardrobe, and all, for ;^4,86o. An 
engraving of the theatre at this time shows a high 
brick wall, with a verandah-like abutment and tent-like 
entrance. Mr. John Scott, who had built the Sans 
Pareil, afterwards the Adelphi, was the next manager, 
and he inaugurated a reign of red-hot melodrama. 

At the latter end of the year 1830, Madame Vestris, 
being out of an engagement, made up her mind to take 
a theatre, and the Olympic being the only available one 


in the market, it was Hobsons choice. She opened 
it on January 3rd in the following year with a drama on 
the subject of Mary Queen of Scots, in which Miss 
Foote, who appears to have been for a short time in 
partnership with her, played the heroine, and an extrava- 
ganza by Planch^ entitled Olympic Revels. It is at this 
point that the real history of the Wych Street theatre, 
which now took an acknowledged and a high position 
among the places of amusement of the metropolis, may 
be said to commence. Madame Vestris was the first of 
the manageresses, as was set forth in the address spoken 
by her on the opening night, which commenced : — 

" Noble and gentle, matrons, patrons, friends, 
Before you here a venturous woman bends ; 
A warrior-woman, that in strife embarks, 
The first of all dramatic Joans of Arc ; 
Cheer on the enterprise thus dared by me, 
The first that ever led a company ! 
What though, until this very hour and age, 
A lessee lady never owned a stage ! " 

During Madame Vestris s second season, Liston was 
one of the stock company, and James Bland, who, until 
the appearance of Robson, had no equal as a burlesque 
actor in the mock-heroic style that depends for its 
humour upon the exaggeration of passion, instead of 
buffoonery. Encouraged by the success of her under- 
taking, each year she made greater efforts to attract 
public favour, and in 1833 her company included Keeley, 
Liston, Bland, James Vining, Frank Matthews, Mrs. 
Orger, Miss Goward (Mrs. Keeley), and her incompar- 
able self. The entertainment was of the lightest and 
brightest — comedietta, farce, extravaganza Planche 
was the dramatic genius loci, and no other could have 
been found so exactly suitable to the requirements of 


the management. Planch^ had a delicacy of touch in 
burlesque that has never been equalled by any other 
English writer. Classical subjects have been travestied 
for the stage since the days of Henry Fielding; but 
Planch6, while travestying the ancient myths, did it 
with a refinement unknown to his predecessors. His 
chief triumphs, however, were in a field until then 
unexplored by playwrights — the fairy lore of France, as 
it exists in the pages of Perrault and the Countess 
d'Aulnoy. Under his hand those exquisite fairy tales 
never degenerated into mere nonsense, and though 
every character was treated from a humorous point of 
view, no beautiful thought or creation was held up 
to ridicule ; street slang was never called in to eke out 
shortness of wit, and when puns were introduced — which 
was not too frequently — they were real puns, appropriate 
to the situation, and not dragged in for the mere 
purpose of word-twisting ; the fantastic, the grotesque, 
and the poetic were combined in almost equal degrees. 
And what an interpreter he had in Madame Vestris! 
one endowed with histrionic abilities that were brilliant 
even in the highest range of comedy, with a voice equal 
to the requirements of the finest music, with a taste the 
most refined, and a personal beauty that was peerless! 
To quote Planchd s own words : " The extraordinary 
and continued success of this experiment was due, not 
only to the admirable singing and piquante performance 
of that gifted lady, but also to the charm of novelty 
imparted to it by the elegance and accuracy of the 
costume, it having been previously the practice to dress 
a burlesque in the most outr^ and ridiculous fashion. 
My suggestion to try the effect of persons picturesquely 
attired speaking absurd doggerel fortunately took the 
fancy of the fair lessee, and the alteration was highly 


appreciated by the public. But many old actors could 
. never get over their early impressions ; Liston thought 
to the last that Prometheus, instead of the Phrygian 
cap, tunic, and trousers, should have been dressed like 
a great lubberly boy, in a red jacket and nankeens, with 
a pinafore all besmeared with lollipops." 

Nor were her reforms confined to the burlesque part 
of the programme. Writing of the Olympic at this 
time, in his autobiography, Charles Mathews says : 
"There was introduced for the first time in England 
that reform in all theatrical matters which has since been 
adopted at every theatre in the kingdom. Drawing- 
rooms were fitted up like drawing-rooms, and fitted with 
care and taste. Two chairs no longer indicated that 
two persons were to be seated. A claret-coloured coat, 
salmon-coloured trousers, with a broad black stripe, a 
sky-blue neckcloth with a large paste brooch, and a cut- 
steel eyeglass with a pink ribbon, no longer marked the 
light-comedy gentleman, and the public at once recog- 
nised and appreciated the changes." 

Never for a moment did the fair manageress relax her 
vigilance ; when not acting, she was always in her box 
watching the performance and detecting the slightest 
faults or shortcomings. 

It was on December 7th, 1835, at the age of thirty- 
one, that ** young" Charles Mathews made his first 
appearance upon the public stage at the Olympic. The 
event is thus described in a newspaper of the day : 
** Olympic. — On Monday this house was crowded in 
every part ; the announcement of the first appearance 
of Mr. Charles Mathews was sufficient to excite the 
curiosity of the general playgoer, as well as the actors, 
who mustered strong upon the occasion. We never 
recollect on any previous one so many performers con- 


gregated in the audience part of the theatre. Listen 
introduced him to the public, and appeared satisfied with 
the talent displayed by the new debutant Two burlettes 
were produced — the first a translation by Mathews, in 
which he performed *the Hunchbacked Lover'; the 
second a clever and original piece, entitled Old and 
Young Stagers y by Leman Rede. In the latter, Liston 
enacted the Old Stager, and Mathews the young one. 
We are not disposed to be too severe on the juvenile 
aspirant, and will make every allowance for a first 
appearance. His performance throughout was such as 
to give promise of future excellence ; at present he wants 
that repose which only time and study can accomplish. 
He occasionally reminded us of his late father, par- 
ticularly in a song which he introduced, and which he 
executed exceedingly well ; it called forth an unanimous 
encore. We shall wait his appearance in some other 
character before we give a decided opinion of his talents, 
but at the same time must do him the justice to say it 
was one of the most successful debuts we have ever 

Mathews was educated for an architect, he had also 
been a prot6g6 of the Earl of Blessington's, and accom- 
panied that nobleman and his famous countess to Italy 
for the purpose of pursuing his studies. From that' 
time he moved in the most fashionable circles of society, 
and contracted habits and associations very unsuited to 
a struggling professional man. His father lost all his 
money by bad speculations, theatrical and otherwise, 
and at his death young Charles found that he must set 
to work in earnest to gain a livelihood ; so he took an 
empty room in Furnivals Inn, and had his name painted 
upon the panels with the addition of the word '* Archi- 
tect." As no one appeared to be desirous of testing the 



young man's powers of construction, his friends advised 
him to try for a district surveyorship. There was a 
vacancy in the district of Bow and Bethnal Green, and 
Mathews enlisted all the interest he could muster to 
obtain the post. To continue in his own words : 
"The emoluments arising from the appointment were 
not startling, and about £/^o per annum compensated 
me for my agreeable labours — ^that is, would have done, 
had I received it ; but there was the difficulty. It con- 
sisted of fees, fees to be collected by myself in person, 
and a pretty time I had of it. At one house I knocked 
humbly, after considerable hesitation ; the door was 
opened cautiously with the chain up, and a stout, 
suspicious-looking dame, in a pair of nankeen stays, 
asked me if I ' came arter the taxes or summat }^ * No, 
madam,' I answered deferentially, *I am the district 

surveyor from Cutthroat Lane, and ' ' Oh, bother ! ' 

said the lady, * summons me if you like; Tm not going 
to be humbugged by you.' Another defaulter kept an 
oilcloth warehouse in Whitechapel. I was some time 
before I could summon up courage to enter, as there 
were several customers assembled. However, I ventured, 
and was met by an appeal that was irresistible. ' What ? ' 
he said, * you, a gentleman, come to a poor man like me 
for such a paltry sum as that ! You ought to be ashamed 
of yourself.' Then turning to the customers, ' What do 

you think of this.*^ Here's a gentleman who ' I 

did not wait to hear the rest, but made my exit at 
once, thinking I was lucky to escape being tossed in a 

This was not the kind of experience to suit the 
associate of D'Orsay, the pet of earls and countesses, 
and although averse to the stage as a profession, he now 
turned his thoughts in that direction. He had been a 


writer of light pieces, and an amateur actor in the 
private theatres of his friends from boyhood ; and, born 
as it were within the shadow of the green baize, it was 
no raw novice who made his first bow to a London 
audience on that December night. 

The Olympic, however, was the only theatre at that 
period upon which he could have achieved a success, for 
his style was new, was entirely opposed to the stage 
traditions that still ruled the dramatic world, and were 
to rule it for many years to come. His light comedy 
was quite a different thing from that of the ^«/r/-dressed, 
swaggering, back-slapping, restless, loud-talking gentle- 
man who then possessed the stage ; it was the most 
perfect blending of art and nature, or rather it was the 
most perfect example of natural art, the English stage 
has ever known. Mathews did not, as superficial ob- 
servers used to say, do and talk precisely as a man 
would in the privacy of his own drawing-room ; no 
landscape can be transferred to canvas exactly as it 
exists, but only as it appears through the medium of 
the painter's eye ; no character can be drawn, no story, 
however realistic, can be told until it has been sub- 
limated in the novelist's imagination ; and no actor can 
tread the stage without imparting a certain artificial 
colouring and polish to his creations, unless he would 
have his efforts condemned as crude and ««natural. 
However closely art and nature may approach each 
other, the moment they are confounded together each 
loses its distinctive charm. It was the very perfection 
of Charles Mathews's art that made it look so much like 
nature ; founded upon the best French school, his acting 
was quite equal to his models. No English rival ap- 
proached that combination of consummate ease, non- 
chalance, polished manner, and brilliant vivacity that 


•marked his performances until he was nearly seventy 
years of age. Whatever he did was apparently without 
effort ; even in such extravagances as Patter versus 
Clatter and He would be an Actor, in which he assumed 
several different characters, we had the same delightful 
repose ; when he suddenly changed from the young 
officer to the chattering barber, or the man with a cold 
in his head, or from the Welsh gardener to the French 
lady, he never resorted to caricature to emphasise the 
change ; he was never haunted by the memory of the 
previous character, and a fear that he might be falling 
back upon it. He had full confidence in his skill and 
fine judgment. ' How admirably was the latter dis- 
played in the second act of Used Up! Sir Charles 
Coldstream approached only as near to a ploughman as 
a gentleman could. I have seen other actors approach 
very much nearer, because in their coarse art they 
thought a violent contrast should be made between the 
first and the second act. 

But to return to our chronicle. When Liston retired 
from the stage, in the season of 1836-7, William 
Farren joined the company. Farren, who is the father 
and grandfather of the living actors of that name, and 
was son of the original Careless in The School for 
Scandal, was one of the finest actors of his time. 
As early as 18 18 he made a great success at Covent 
Garden as Sir Peter Teazle, with Young, Charles 
Kemble, Blanchard, and Liston in the cast, and from 
that time until his retirement in 1855 retained his 
prestige as Sir Peter, Lord Ogleby, Marrall, Dr. Prim- 
rosd. Grandfather Whitehead, Sir Anthony Absolute, 

Imagine a lever de ridsau acted by Charles Mathews, 
Keeley, James Vining, Mrs. Orger, Mrs. Keeley, 


Madame Vestris, and Farren ! They all appeared to- 
gether in You Cannot Marry Your Grandmother It 
will be somewhat startling to present-day playgoers to 
be told that with such a magnificent array of talent the 
highest price of admission was four shillings ; indeed, 
there were but two prices, as in 1&37 Madame Vestris 
abolished the gallery, converting it into boxes ; the pit 
was two shillings. Though general salaries were small, 
both Liston and Farren took very large ones, and the 
manageress and Charles Mathews must have put them- 
selves down for a pretty considerable sum weekly. 
The wonder is, how the theatre could possibly have 
been kept on at such a tariff. 

In the July of 1838, Charles Mathews and Madame 
Vestris were married in Kensington Church, and directly 
afterwards started for America. Mathews's account of 
their trip goes very far to prove that there was not 
much exaggeration in Dickens's pictures of the Americans 
of that generation. Arriving at an hotel in New York, 
fatigued by their voyage, in the midst of some public 
ball, they naturally desired privacy, and because they 
objected to show themselves like prize oxen, it was 
voted that they had insulted the American citizens ; a 
clique was formed against them, the prospects of their 
tour were ruined, and by Christmas they were once 
more in London. And not a day too soon, for the 
Olympic company had been playing to a heavy loss 
during the whole time they had been absent. 

It may be supposed that the little theatre no longer 
satisfied the Mathews' ambition, as, in 1839, they 
quitted the Olympic for Covent Garden. 'During the 
next ten years the fortunes of the Wych Street house 
were extremely chequered. George Wilde, a penniless 
adventurer, George Bolton, another, Kate Howard, 


Davidson, etc., etc., came like shadows and so departed, 
leaving no record behind, except in the books of their 
creditors. Those were followed by Miss Davenport, 
and, in 1848, by Walter Watts, a clerk in the Globe 
Insurance Office, who lavished a lot of money, not his 
own, upon the theatre. 

It was under Watts, January, 1848, that Gustavus 
Brooke made his first appearance in London as Othello. 
There was a great similarity between the careers of 
Edmund Kean and the Irish tragedian ; both were 
reckless and dissipated, and both passed their early years 
in strolling companies. While at Manchester, where he 
played second parts, Brooke attracted the attention of 
Macready, who engaged him for Drury Lane in 1845. 
Finding himself cast for the unimportant part of Salanio 
in the Merchant of Venke, however, he broke his en- 
gagement and went back to strolling. Only a few 
months before he opened at the Olympic he was playing 
in a theatre built under a railway arch at Kilmarnock, 
and was driven to such extremities that he had to take 
up his abode there night and day. 

Brooke had a good stage-face and presence, a voice 
deep and musical as a full-toned organ, and great power. 
Though he was guilty at times of " tearing a passion to 
rags, to very tatters," there was a soul in his rant, and a 
reality in his bursts of passion, that hurried the spectator 
on and blinded one to his exaggerations. No such 
sensational debut had been made since the night 
Edmund Kean played Shylock for the first time at 
Drury Lane; *'the pit rose" at him as it had at "the 
little man in the capes," and applause culminated in an 
enthusiastic demonstration. Yet never were the critics 
more divergent in their opinions, for while the Times 
pronounced him to be purely original, exquisite in his 


pathos, and overwhelming in his rage, the Examiner 
considered him utterly conventional and a mere mouther. 

Whatever might have been Brooke's faults, there was 
no Othello between his and Salvinis. His Sir Giles 
Overreach was a remarkable piece of acting. I have 
never seen anything more startling upon the stage than 
his last act, especially that point where, in the full 
tempest of his fury, he was rushing sword in hand upon 
his creature, Marrall — the sudden stop, as one struck by 
palsy, the horror of the face, the gripping of the wrist 
that refused to perform his will, and the muttered cry : 
" Some undone widow sits upon my arm ! " Even the 
actors engaged in the scene were appalled by the terrible 
realism, and almost forgot their parts. Brooke was 
also an admirable comedian in certain Irish characters, 
such as O'Callaghan in the once favourite farce of His 
Last Legs. He was afterwards as great a success at 
Drury Lane as he had been at the Olympic. 

The public took prodigiously to the new star, and 
Brooke might have held a permanent position upon the 
London stage but for that sin which has proved the 
destruction of so many actors ; it was the story of 
George Frederick Cooke over again : a disappointed or 
an outraged public in town and country that soon grew 
disgusted with their favourite. There was a touch of 
heroism in his death : he went down in the wreck of the 
London, January, 1866, while on his way to Australia, 
and he was last seen working manfully at the pumps. 
Perhaps " there was nothing in his life became him like 
his leaving it." 

On March 29th, 1849, at five o'clock in the evening, 
the Olympic was discovered to be on fire, and in a little 
while all that remained of Philip Astleys ''Wheel de 
Parry'' was a mass of smouldering ruins. There was a 
strong suspicion of incendiarism. 


The house was rebuilt and reopened by Walter Watts 
at the end of the same year, but was abruptly closed in 
March, 1850, in consequence of the manager's arrest for 
enormous defalcations and forgery, which made his name 
rather famous in Old Bailey records. 

After another fiasco by George Bolton, William 
Farren came here from the Strand with a fine company 
— Mrs. Glover, Mrs. Stirling, Compton, Leigh Murray ; 
he afterwards engaged Helen F.aucit for a series of 
legitimate performances. 

Yet with all his efforts and all the talent at his com- 
mand, Farren could not draw the public to any profitable 
extent. There is one factor, however, to be taken into 
consideration ; Farren, though not then seventy years 
old, was a mere wreck ; his speech was so indistinct that 
he might have been acting in a foreign tongue for all 
that could be understood of his utterances, and as he 
persisted in playing principal parts, this circumstance 
might have had something to do with the bad business. 

On Easter Monday, 1853, Frederick Robson made 
his first appearance on this stage in an old farce entided, 
Catching an Heiress. Robson had for some years been 
low comedian at the Grecian Saloon. He then went to 
Dublin for two or three seasons, where Farren saw him 
act and engaged him for the Olympic. Robson, how- 
ever, attracted no particular attention until Talfourd's 
burlesque on Macbeth was brought out a few weeks later ; 
then his tragi-comic style burst upon the town with all 
the force of a new creation. Three months afterwards 
he appeared as Shylock in another burlesque by the 
same author, and the next morning the Times pro- 
nounced him to be the greatest actor that had been seen 
upon the stage since Edmund Kean. This was followed 
by a wonderful impersonation, and a wonderful comic 


song in one of the trashiest of farces, The Wandering 
Minstrel, — "Villikins and his Dinah," that he had 
sung hundreds of times at the Grecian ; it now drew all 
fashionable London for a twelvemonth. It was more 
than a success, it was a furore. Everybody was singing 
** Too roo ral, too roo ral, too ral li da." It was intro- 
duced upon the most extraordinary occasions, even by a 
counsel in his address to the jury; "Villikins and his 
Dinah" was the h^i^^A par excellence from the Belgravia 
drawing-room to the St. Giles's beershop. 

Farren took leave of the Olympic in September, 1853, 
as Lord Ogleby, and on the 17th of October Alfred 
Wigan inaugurated his reign with The Camp at the 
Olympic, and Tom Taylor s Plot and Passion^ in which 
Mrs. Stirling, Wigan, and Emery played superbly, and 
Robson made another enormous hit as the spy Des- 
maret. I may note that the stalls were now raised to 
five shillings. 

A first appearance has to be noted, that of Miss Her- 
bert, who had come over from the Strand, in a power- 
ful play called Retribution ; we shall meet her again at 
the St James's. But Robson was the unique attraction. 
The ghoul-like Yellow Dwarf was followed by the still 
more wonderful impersonation of Medea^ with its wild, 
savage intensity, and grotesque commonplace. Masa- 
niello was little inferior with the song "I'm a Shrimp," 
in which he reduced his body to boneless limpness, and 
the weird, mad scene, with his imitations of Charles 
Kean. And his success was equally great in domestic 
drama. What a wonderful performance was his Daddy 
Hardacre ; it was the very ferocity of avarice. Hardly 
less successful was his Sampson Burr, in The Porters 
Knot, but the sentimentality was somewhat strained and 
mawkish. Robson was a great genius ; who that saw 


him when in the full possession of his powers can ever 
forget the strange-looking little man with the small body 
and the big head, who played upon his audience as 
though they had been the keys of a piano, now convul- 
sing them with laughter as he perpetrated some out- 
rageous drollery, now hushing them into awe-struck 
silence by an electrical burst of passion or pathos, or 
holding them midway between terror and laughter as he 
performed some weirdly grotesque dance ? The im- 
pression he conveyed in those moments of extreme 
tension was that of a man overwrought by excitement to 
the verge of madness ; the wild, gleaming eyes, the 
nervous twitchings of the marvellously plastic features, 
the utter abandon to the feeling of the moment, whether 
it were tragic or grotesque, the instantaneous transition 
from the tragedian to the clown, were no stage-tricks, but 
an inspiration, an irrepressible impulse. He was mor- 
bidly timid and nervous ; he could never realise the great 
position he had attained, and was ever haunted by a fear 
that his fall would be as sudden as had been his rise ; 
success had a delirious effect upon him, and to deaden 
the stage-fright, which he could never overcome, he 
resorted to stimulants — with the usual result. 

When in August, 1857, Alfred Wigan retired from 
the management of the Olympic, it was undertaken by 
Robson in partnership with the acting manager, Emden. 
Poor Robson, his career was brief as it was brilliant, and 
its brilliancy was dulled long before the end. He had 
been famous scarcely seven years when his powers began 
to fail, and his terror of facing the audience became 
so great that while waiting for his cue he would gnaw 
his arms until they bled, and cry out piteously, " I dare 
not go on, I dare not ! " until the prompter had at times 
absolutely to thrust him before the footlights. 


Robson's last original part was Dogbriar, in Watts 
Philips's drama, Camillas Husband, produced at the end 
of 1862; but by this time he was only the shadow of 
his former self. Melter Moss, in The Ttcket-of- Leave 
Man^ was written for him, but after a few rehearsals 
another actor, George Vincent, had to be engaged for 
the part, and on February 12th, 1864, before the run of 
that notable play came to an end, Frederick Robson had 
breathed his last. 

The Ttcket'Of'Leave Man achieved the longest run 
recorded up to that time. It was one of a species of 
plays that had been delighting East End audiences for 
many years; but the style and the acting were toned 
down, the extravagances pruned, and the West End 
found a new sensation in scenes of low London life, 
which had not been so realistically rendered upon the 
stage since the days of Tom and Jerry. 

Emden relinquished the management of the Olympic 
shortly after his partner's death, and was succeeded in 
the autumn of 1864 by Horace Wigan, the original 
Hawkshaw of the play last named. The new manager 
produced during his tenure a series of romantic plays 
which came to be known as '* The Olympic Drama" — as 
in the days that were passed Buckstone's pieces were 
called " The Adelphi Drama" — of which Henry Neville, 
who had made himself famous as . Bob Brierley, and 
Kate Terry were the principal exponents. Neville's 
impassioned, impulsive style excellently adapted him 
for the heroes of such plays as The Serf, Henry Dunbar, 
while as the heroine of domestic and romantic drama 
Miss Terry was the true successor of Mrs. Stirling. She 
was less successful in the legitimate, as she lacked 
poetry and distinction, although it was as Juliet at the 
Adelphi, in August, 1867, that she elected to take leave 


of the London stage. At the end of four years Wigan 
retired, and Benjamin Webster conducted the house for 
one season. He was followed in 1869 by Mr. Liston, 
who made some marked successes with adaptations of 
Dickens s and Wilkie CoUins's novels, chief of which were 
Little Emly and The Woman in White. 

Ada Cavendish spent a large sum of money in 1872 
to make the Olympic one of the most charming theatres 
in London. The New Magdalen was her principal 
production. Miss Cavendish was an excellent actress, 
endowed with power, passion, and pathos, and but for 
chronic ill-health might have risen to a high position. 
Her Mercy Merrick, by which she is chiefly remembered, 
was a remarkably fine performance of a part that taxed 
all the beauty and all the art of the actress to enlist the 
sympathies of the audience and achieve a success. A 
notable impersonation of this lady s was Miss Gwilt, 
another of Wilkie Collinses shady heroines. 

Miss Cavendish's management was brief as it was 
profitless, and in 1873 Henry Neville succeeded her, 
and was lessee for some six years. Tom Taylor's 
Clancarty, with Ada Cavendish as the heroine — the 
original and the best of all — The Two Orphans^ Clytie^ 
Buckingham^ The Scuttled Ship; revivals of The Ticket- 
of-Leave Man, Henry Dunbar, The Wife's Secret, 
were among his productions. W. S. Gilbert's Gretchen 
was staged here soon after Mr. Neville's secession in 
1879. John HoUingshead, Edgar Bruce,. Genevieve 
Ward, Agnes Hewitt, John Coleman, etc., tried their 
fortunes at the Olympic between the last-named year 
and the closing of the old house in May, 1890, but 
nothing was done that calls for comment. 

Entirely rebuilt and greatly enlarged, with a seating 
accommodation for three thousand people, and a stage 


inferior in size only to Drury Lane, the New Olympic 
was opened by Mr. Wilson Barrett in January, 1891, 
with a play bearing the suggestive title of The People's 
Idol. But if Mr. Barrett was the peoples idol, the 
worshippers withheld their sacrifices, and although he 
revived The Lights London, Hamlet, The Silver King, 
and appeared in a new version of Belphegor, called The 
Acrobat, which unfortunately called up damaging re- 
collections of Charles Dillon in the part, the ill luck of 
the old house seemed to have passed on to the new. 

Signor Lago started an opera season here in Sep- 
tember, 1892, and produced Tschaikowsky's Eughte 
On^gin. The great Russian composer's music was 
almost unknown eleven years ago, and the work was 
indifferently received. The season terminated abruptly. 
A curious dramatic experiment was made in 1895 by 
the Anglo-American Theatrical Syndicate, when an 
elaborately got up version of The Pilgrim's Progress 
was staged with a voluptuous ballet — shade of the 
Bedford tinker! — while Miss Grace Hawthorne repre- 
sented the pious Christian very much in the guise of a 
pantomime prince. It was an extraordinary production. 

There would be no interest and no purpose in re- 
counting the names of the red-hot melodramas, the 
plunges into the legitimate — ^all more or less failures — 
that succeeded one another in rapid succession until the 
final closing of the unfortunate house in the autumn of 
1 899, A troupe of midgets at very low prices were the 
last who appeared upon its boards. A little while and 
even its site, traversed by a great thoroughfare, will be 


The English Opera House and Theatre Royal Lyceum — Its Records under 
the Keeleys, Madame Vestris, Charles Fechter, Sir Henry Irving, 
etc., 1809-1902 

IN 1765, Mr. James Payne, an architect, erected, 
upon a piece of ground that formerly belonged to 
Exeter House, a building, constructed for the exhibi- 
tions of ** The Society of Artists," which he christened 
the Lyceum. Three years later, divisions taking place 
among the members, certain of them went off to 
Somerset House, and there founded the Royal Academy, 
while the original body soon afterwards sank into ob- 
livion. The premises were then purchased by Mr. 
Lingham, a breeches-maker in the Strand, who let 
them for exhibitions, or balls, or meetings, or any other 
purpose for which he could find a tenant. About 1794, 
Dr. Arnold, the musical composer, rebuilt the interior 
as a theatre, but being unable to obtain a licence through 
the strenuous opposition of the patentees of Drury Lane 
and Covent Garden, he had at last to give Lingham 
back his lease and forfeit the improvements with it. By 
including a large saloon and some smaller rooms, as well 
as the theatre, in the building, it could accommodate 
several exhibitions at one time. When the Amphi- 
theatre in Westminster Road was burnt down, it was 
here that Astley brought his circus. The Musical 
Glasses (without Shakespeare), phantasmagoria, pano- 
ramas, 'made their home at the Lyceum. It was, by 

A 274 


turns, a school of eloquence, a concert-room, a Roman 
Catholic chapel, the show-place of a white negro girl, 
and of a porcupine man ; here actors out of engage- 
ments gave entertainments ; and here it was that in 
1802, Madame Tussaud, upon her arrival in England, 
first exhibited her collection of waxwork figures. 

Not until 1809 did the Lyceum become a regular 
theatre. In that year the burnt-out company of Drury 
Laae obtained a special licence from the Lord Chamber- 
lain to give dramatic performances at the Lyceum, 
where they performed during each winter, until the 
new Drury Lane was ready, in 181 2. Samuel James 
Arnold, the son of the composer, and the manager for 
the Drury Lane Committee, obtained a licence for the 
performance of English opera during the summer 
months, on the plea that it would become the nursery 
of English singers for the patent theatres, and in 18 10 
the name of the building was changed to the English 
Opera House. Ballad operas old and new, musical 
farces, melodramas, such as Love in a Village, One 
o'clock; or, the Knight and the Wood Demon, No Song 
no Supper, The Devil's Bridge, were interpreted in 
different seasons by Braham, Liston, Fawcett, Oxberry, 
Mrs. Mountain, Mrs. Bland, Fanny Kelly. Here about 
18 1 1 was produced Tom Moore's single dramatic essay, 
M.P. ; or, the Blue Stocking. 

In 181 5, having, at the death of Whitbread, retired 
from the management of Drury Lane, Arnold was 
granted a ninety-nine years' lease of the Strand property 
from the Marquis of Exeter, at a ground rent of ;^7oo 
per annum, and purchased the whole block of buildings 
that now form a square between Wellington Street and 
Exeter Street, rebuilding the houses, shops, and theatre, 
at a cost of ;^8o,ooo. The northern end of Wellington 


Street was not formed until 1829; Exeter Change, the 
Zoological Gardens and monsters' show-place of that 
day, occupied the site and projected over the pavement 
of the Strand ; consequently the principal entrance to 
the theatre was beneath a small stone portico, supported 
by six Ionic columns, leading into a long, vaulted 
passage, upon which a door of the adjoining tavern 
opened, as it still does, into what was the pit passage. 
The entrances to pit and gallery were in Exeter Court. 
At prices ranging from one to five shillings, the house 
was computed to hold £z<p. The interior was hand- 
somely decorated, but the great feature of the building 
was a saloon seventy-two feet long and forty wide, fitted 
up as a winter garden, with flowers and shrubs, and 
diversified in character each season : sometimes it re- 
presented an Italian terrace, then a Chinese pavilion, at 
another it was adorned with pictures of ancient Egypt. 
This house was one of the earlier places of public 
amusement that adopted the use of gas, as the Hay- 
market was the last, and in 181 7 the announcement that 
gas-lights were introduced over the whole stage was 
made the great feature in the bills. It had been used 
at the Olympic, however, two years previously. Later 
on in the same season this innovation was extended to 
the auditorium. 

The new house was opened June 15th, 1816, with 
two musical pieces. Up All Night; or, The Smugglers 
Cave, and The Boarding House, and an Address by- 
Miss Kelly. Between i8i6and 1818, Harley, Miss Love, 
a charming singer, and T. P. Cooke, were in the com- 
pany. Fanny Kelly, however, was the bright particular 
star of the theatre. Charles Lamb was in love with her, 
and a letter dated 1819, in which he proposed to the de- 
lightful actress — who declined — has recently come to light. 


Fanny Kelly, when she was nine years of age, played 
the Duke of York to George Frederick Cooke's Richard, 
on his first appearance in London in 18 10; and Prince 
Arthur to Mrs. Siddons*s Constance. She achieved no 
distinction in her profession, however, until 18 14, when 
her clever acting at this theatre made the success of a 
pantomime called Harlequin Hoax. In the first season 
of the new house, The Maid and the Magpie^ an adapta- 
tion of a French drama. La Pie Voletise, was pro- 
duced. It was just after the cause ciRbre of Eliza 
Penning, and a certain similarity between the two 
stories, together with the exquisite pathos of Miss Kelly 
as the falsely accused servant, Annette, created a great 
sensation. Memories of this old drama still survive in 
Rossini's La Gazza Ladra^ and in H. J. Byron's 
burlesque. From that time Miss Kelly became identi- 
fied with the heroines of domestic drama, and in such 
parts as Phcebe in The Millers Maid^ Lisette in The 
Sergeant's Wife, and many others written expressly to 
suit her particular style, she had no rival in her own 
day, nor has she had a successor. She was equally 
excellent in certain soubrette parts in farces, and while 
never lacking dramatic intensity or broad humour, her 
style was perfectly natural, no slight commendation in 
an age when stage art was generally stilted and artificial. 
Although very plain, she was twice in danger of her 
life from rejected lovers : one man fired at her from 
Drury Lane pit, and the bullet passed over her head ; 
at Dublin another love-sick swain was so violent and 
threatening in his behaviour that she had to give him 
into custody. The ludicrous side of the story is that 
both were proved to be insane. ** What can it mean } " 
she said very naively to the Dublin magistrate before 
whom the latter case was brought. ** It can't be my 


beauty that drives these poor people mad ! " We shall 
meet Miss Kelly again at the Strand and the Royalty. 

Another striking success was that of Planch^ s once 
^ famous melodrama, The Vampire^ for which that 
greatest exponent of diablerie, T. P. Cooke, was en- 
gaged. It was for this piece that the star, or vampire 
trap was invented. It was a very ingenious contrivance ; 
so perfect were the springs, that when the actor 
vanished it seemed that he had gone through the solid 
boards, as no opening was discernible. 

The licence granted to the English Opera House 
extended from July ist to October; but, except by 
special permission for some particular occasion, no play 
belonging to the rSpertoire of the winter theatres was 
allowed to be performed. The old fare had to be ad- 
hered to — ballad opera and dramas, strong melodrama, 
bearing such titles as The Death Fetch; pantomimes 
and versions of German and Italian opera, cut down to 
a commonplace serious or comic drama, with songs and 
duets, most of the concerted pieces being omitted — in 
the first place, because the company could not sing 
them, and in the second, because the public would not 
have cared about them.^ But the theatre did not pay ; 
and in 1817 the management resorted to the curious 
experiment of giving two performances a night, the 
one commencing at six, the other at half-past nine, at 
reduced prices, a practice that was very speedily 

* The musical taste of the period was barbarous in the extreme. When 
Oberan was first produced at Covent Garden, in 1823, all the concerted 
pieces were cut out, and it was thought the audience would not stand even 
the exquisite " Mermaid's Song." At the very house I am writing of, when 
// Barbi^re was brought out as a sort of musical comedy, Rossini's score 
was varied by excerpts from Dibdin, Philips, and three or four other com- 


It was on this stage, in 1818, that Mathews the elder 
first appeared in his famous entertainment Mathews at 
Home. His extraordinary powers of mimicry had for 
some time overshadowed his great abilities as an actor, 
so that, as he complained in his opening address, both 
managers and the Press had fallen into the habit of 
regarding him as a mere mimic, and on the opening of 
the great theatres he occasionally found himself left out 
in the cold. Years before, Charles Dibdin had appeared 
at the old house in a musical and. mimetic entertainment, 
and it was this that suggested the idea of the At Home 
to Mathews. Arnold, the manager, offered to engage 
him for seven years at a thousand a year, terms with 
which, never anticipating the enormous success that the 
entertainment would achieve, he at once closed. The 
At Home was to be given each year in April and May 
at the English Opera House, and in the provinces 
during the remaining months. When the success was 
assured, more favourable terms for the artist, however, 
were arranged. The following copy of the first bill of 
Mathews's entertainment may prove interesting to the 
curious reader : — 


The public are respectfully informed that they will find Mr. Mathews 
"At Home" this evening, Thursday, April 2nd, 18 18; Saturday the 
4th, and on the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday following, 
when he will have the honour of presenting his visitors with an enter- 
tainment called 

Mail Goach Adventures; 

Affording an introduction for various comic songs, imitations, &c. 
Previous to which he will address the company on the subject of his 
present attempt 

Part First. 

Recitation — Introductory address — General improvement in the 
conveyance of live lumber, as exemplified, in the progress of heavy 


coach, light coach, caterpillar and mail — Whimsical description of an 
expedition to Brentford. 

Song — Mail Coach. 

Recitation — Description of the passengers — Lisping Lady and Critic 

in Black. 

Song — Royal Visitors. 

Recitation — Breaking of a spring — Passengers at Highgate — Lite- 
rary Butcher — Socrates in the Shambles — Definition of Belles-Lettres — 
French Poets — Rhyming Defended. 

Song — Cobbler a la Fran false. 

Recitation — Theatrical Conversation — Dimensions of Drury Lane 
and Covent Garden stages — Matter-of-fact Conversation — Satire on 

Song — Incontrovertible Facts in various Branches of Knowledge. 

Part Second. 
Mr. Mathews will deliver an experimental lecture on Ventriloquy. 

Part Third. 
Recitation — Digression on the Study of the Law ; Whimsical Trial, 
Goody Grim versus Lapstone — Scramble at Supper — Drunken Farmer 
— Extract, from Hippisly's Drunken Man. 

Song — London Newspapers. 

Recitation — Imitation of Fond Barney of York — Arrival of a Scotch 
Lady— Long Story about Nothing. 

Song — Bartholomew Fair. 

Recitation — A Quack Doctor — Mountebank's harangue — ^Anecdote 
of a Yorkshire man. 

Song — Nightingale Club. 

The entertainment to conclude with novel specimens of Imitation, 
in which several tragic and comic performers will give their different 
ideas how " Hamlet's Advice to the Players " should be spoken. 

Mathews has had many imitators in this kind of 
entertainment, his own son among the number, but 
never an equal. To judge by the stories related by 


Mrs. Mathews, his powers of mimicry, or rather of 
transformation, must have been nothing less than 
marvellous, for without make-up, change of dress, or 
any stage trickery, he could so transform his personality 
as to deceive his most intimate friends. He was once 
expelled from behind the scenes of the Liverpool 
Theatre, where he was actually playing at the time, as 
an intrusive stranger; and the next moment, after 
simply allowing his features and figure to assume their 
normal appearance, passed through the stage-door again 
and was recognised as Mr. Mathews. In those days 
the habituSs of the boxes had the entree of the green- 
room of Drury Lane ; among those who availed them- 
selves of the privilege was a curious old gentleman, 
whose name, it was understood, was Pennyman, and 
whose behaviour was so eccentric that he soon became a 
notorious character. ** No one," to use Mrs. Mathews s 
words, "could tell how the gentleman got admittance, 
and therefore there was no mode of excluding him. 
Every night he attracted inconvenient numbers to the 
green-room ; and on the nights when my husband per- 
formed it was a matter of much regret to the performers 
that Mathews always came to the theatre too early or 
too late to see a subject whom he, of all others, ought 
to see. It was really surprising that no suspicion of the 
truth arose. One night, in the midst of a greater excite- 
ment than was usually created by him, he suddenly re- 
vealed himself to the assembled crowd as Mr. Mathews." 
When Godwin was writing Clotidesley, he asked Mathews 
to furnish him with some hints upon the possibilities of 
disguise. Mathews invited him to dinner, and while 
his guest was conversing with Mrs. Mathews, slipped 
out of the room ; almost immediately afterwards a 
servant entered to announce a Mr. Jenkins. Mrs. 


Mathews looked vexed, and had scarcely time to ex- 
plain that it was a troublesome and eccentric neighbour, 
when the new visitor entered. He was introduced to 
Mr. Godwin, and began to talk so incessantly about 
tnat gentleman's works, and made such impertinent 
inquiries concerning the forthcoming one, that the illus- 
trious author, bored and annoyed, rose from his seat 
and went to the window, that opened on to the lawn ; 
but Mr. Jenkins was not to be so easily evaded; he 
pushed before him and officiously offered to unfasten 
the window ; after fumbling a little, he threw it open 
and turned round ; then, to his astonishment, Godwin 
saw another man — not Mr. Jenkins, but Charles 
Mathews. After this Mathews became a terror to 
judges and barristers whenever he was seen in court. 
One day, while on a provincial tour, he strolled into the 
sessions-house at Shrewsbury during a trial. Presently 
an usher came to him with the judge's compliments to 
inquire if he would like a seat upon* the bench. Rather 
astonished, as he had no acquaintance with his lordship, 
Mathews followed his conductor and was most effusively 
received. Relating the incident some years afterwards 
to a legal friend, he was commenting upon the polite- 
ness shown him, when the listener burst out laughing. 
" IVe heard the judge tell the story," he said, "and 
I remember him saying, ' I was so frightened when I 

caught sight of that d d Mathews in the court with 

his eyes upon me that I couldn't fix my thoughts upon 
the case, for I believed he had come there for the 
purpose of taking me off on the stage that night, so I 
thought it was best to be as civil to him as possible.' " 

Small as were the privileges accorded to the minor 
theatres, the managers of the patent houses endeavoured 
to curtail them by prolonging their own seasons further 


into the summer, and there were appeals to the public 
from one side and to the Lord Chamberlain from the 
other. There is a good story illustrative of this feud 
told in an unpublished letter of Peake's. Dr. Kitchener, 
who was a general friend of the theatrical people of the 
day, hit upon what he considered the splendid idea 
of inviting the four belligerent managers of the Hay- 
market, English Opera House, Covent Garden, and 
Drury Lane to a dinner, at which there should be no 
other guests. The arrangement was kept a close secret, 
and each arrived profoundly ignorant of the others' 
presence. Their combined astonishment may be ima- 
gined. But, after a little awkwardness, they could not 
withstand the ludicrousness of the situation, and, burst- 
ing out into a hearty laugh, shook hands and put a good 
face upon the matter. The doctor now tried hard to 
introduce the subject of their differences, but for a time 
they parried all his efforts, until at last EUiston, then 
lessee of Drury Lane, rose, and with an air of over- 
whelming hauteur laid his hand upon Arnold's head and 
exclaimed, " Minor manager, I will crush you ! " 

Masquerades and costume recitals were given at the 
English Opera House to fill up the winter months, and 
occasionally special permission was obtained for some 
distinguished actor to appear in a round of legitimate 
characters. It was in 1821 that Mrs. Glover played 
Hamlet for her benefit, and a year or two later Mathews 
was allowed to appear in some of his famous characters 
of legitimate comedy. Here, in 182 1, was produced the 
operatic version of Guy Mannering^ Miss Kelly being 
Meg Merrilies. Liston and Madame Vestris in 1823 
were playing in Sweethearts and Wives. 

In the same season was given a dramatic version of 
Mrs. Shelly's weird romance Frankenstein. T, P. 


Cooke's Monster was a wonderful performance, which 
he afterwards repeated at the Porte St. Martin, and for 
eighty nights thrilled the Parisians as he had thrilled the 
Londoners. No less hair-stirring was his Zamiel, in an 
English version of Der Freischiltz. Though the score 
was very much condensed, the great opera was an 
enormous success. The minor house could still boast 
of the finest talent of the day ; in addition to the actors 
already named may be added Miss Stephens, Henry 
Phillips, Miss Romer ; two celebrated juvenile prodigies 
of the time — Clara Fisher and Master Burke; James 
Bland, Keeley; and, on July 2nd, 1825, the bills an- 
nounced that Miss Goward, from the Theatres Royal, 
Norwich and York, would make her first appearance in 
London as Rosina in the ballad opera of that name, and 
Little Pickle in The Spoiled Child, That lady was 
destined to become one of the greatest favourites, 
scarcely excepting Fanny Kelly, that ever trod those 
boards, but she was better known thereafter as Mrs, 

During 1828, an explosion of gas having compelled 
the closing of Covent Garden, the company appeared 
here, and Kean played some of his finest parts — Shy- 
lock, Sir Giles Overreach, Sir Edward Mortimer. A 
famous melodramatic sensation. The Bottle Imp, in 
which O'Smith, who was to be Cooke's successor in 
diablerie, played the Imp, and Frank Matthews made 
his first appearance, was produced in the same year, and 
ran forty-four nights. 

On February loth, 1830, while in the occupancy of a 
French company, the English Opera House died the 
natural death of all theatres — by fire. It was a terrible 
conflagration, sweeping away one side of Exeter Street, 
and involving a loss to Mr. Arnold of ;^8,ooo. During 


the next three years the company played now at the 
Adelphi, now at the Olympic ; and it was not until July, 
1834, that the present building was finished and opened 
under the name of the " New Theatre Royal, Lyceum, 
and English Opera House." Beazeley, the architect, 
made a curious omission in the plan — the gallery stairs 
were forgotten ; this extraordinary oversight was not 
discovered until the building was finished, and a 
temporary wooden staircase, which, however, remained 
for several years, had to be hastily put up for the ascent 
of the gods to their Olympus. By this time the entire 
neighbourhood had been transmogrified. Old Exeter 
Change had disappeared several years previously, 
Wellington Street had been opened, and the principal 
entrance to the theatre was transferred from the Strand 
to the new thoroughfare, an alteration that can scarcely 
be said to have been for the better. 

The first success at the New Lyceum was made with 
John Barnett's charnling opera, The Mountain Sylph ^ 
Miss Romer and Henry Phillips in the principal parts ; 
it was played a hundred nights to crowded houses, and 
the season was extended, for the first time, through 
November. Frederick Lemaltre played Robert Macaire 
and other of his famous characters here in 1835, and, 
by royal authority, the house was allowed to open 
in April, and to continue open until the following 
January,^ but with such ill results that, after trying the 
experiment of reduced prices, the management became 
bankrupt, and was ultimately resolved into a common- 
wealth among the company. Arnold lost during the two 
seasons ;^4,ooo. Then came Italian Opera Buffa and 
French plays, an English version of La Sonnambula, 

^ This was the first advantage gained by the minor houses over the 
patentees. See the preceding chapter. 


with Miss Romer as Amina, The Dice of Death, Les 
Huguenots as a musical drama, Mrs. Keeley playing 
Valentine — all more or less failures. 

It was at this house, in the winter of 1838-9, pro- 
menade concerts, called Concerts d la Musard, from 
the name of the conductor, announced as a novelty 
from Paris, were first introduced into this country. 
The music was entirely instrumental. As they were 
continued for several seasons, from No^^mber to May, 
it may be presumed that they were tolerably successful. 
Here, in 1837, Compton made his London d^but as 
Robin in The Waterman^ and two years later Mrs. 
Stirling joined the company. 

A commonwealth, chiefly composed of actors from 
Covent Garden, opened here in 1840, and next year 
Balfe undertook the management with a great flourish 
of trumpets, and with what appeared to be an excellent 
chance of success — a real national opera, after the 
continental form ; no mere string of ballads, but works 
worthy to stand beside the productions of Italy and 
Germany, were to be produced. The Queen headed 
the list of subscribers. Orchestra-stalls were formed 
for the first time, and the prices of admission raised to 
seven shillings. A spectacular opera upon an Egyptian 
subject, called Keolanthe^ composed by the manager, 
was produced on the opening night, and Macfarren was 
to set to work upon something to follow. But these 
were all castles in the air ; very soon there was a de- 
fection of the principal artistes; everything went wrong, 
and after a ten weeks' struggle the doors were suddenly 
closed. Perhaps the failure is more easily explainable 
than the disappointecl impresario cared to admit. The 
people who could appreciate Mozart and Rossini, and 
even Bellini and Donizetti, would not care to listen to 


KeolafUke, of which probably not a bar survives in 
anybody's memory ; and as in those days every girl had 
not learned to strum upon the piano— happy days! — 
the taste for even such music as this had not yet risen 
among the masses. Hinc ilia lacrynus. After this 
came German opera, with stalls at ten shillings and six- 
pence, the first time we hear of such a price in a 
theatre ; but the German went the way of the English ; 
the Italian school had the monopoly of fashionable patron- 
age, and the music of the Teutons was " caviare " to our 

JuUien and his band performed here early in 1842 ; 
then came Vestris's company from Covent Garden, at the 
break up of her management, and in September the 
house was converted into an " American Amphitheatre," 
a wild-beast show, with the famous Carter, the lion 
king, for star. Later on in the same year, in April, 
charming Mrs. Waylett undertook the management; the 
tariff was reduced and half-price taken to all parts of 
the house ; and to heighten the attraction, Signor Nano, 
the Gnome Fly, was engaged to crawl upon the ceiling, 
walk up perpendicular walls, and fly about the place like 
a veritable diptera — a very extraordinary exhibition, 
but it could not save the management from coming to 
an abrupt termination. 

This house was one of the first to avail itself of the 
change in the licensing law ; and on the 29th of January, 
1844, the English Opera House became the Theatre 
Royal Lyceum. The season opened with Shakespeare's 
Henry /K, an aspiring amateur. Captain Harvey 
Tuckett, playing Falstaff ; the rest of the company were 
taken from the rank and file of the patent theatres. A 
fortnight s trial, to empty benches, cured the Lyceum of 
its ambition for the legitimate, and on Easter Monday 


in the same year, the Keeleys, who had long been 
supreme favourites at this house, took up the sceptre. 
They gathered about them an admirable company for 
the class of pieces they performed — farce, extravaganza, 
and strong domestic drama, which made up an evening s 
entertainment at once solid and bright, and so various as 
to suit almost any taste. , 

Dickens was then in the very zenith of his popularity, 
and dramatic versions of his novels were sure cards. 
Martin Chuzzlewit scored a great success here, running 
ninety nights. The cast was admirable. Sam Emery, 
whom some of us remember, and who made his first 
appearance in London upon these boards in 1843, was 
the Jonas ; Alfred Wigan, the Montague Tigg ; Frank 
Matthews, the Pecksniff; Keeley, Sairey Gampr Mrs. 
Keeley, young Bailey ; Miss Woolgar and Mrs. Wigan, 
the two girls. Then followed The Chimes^ in which 
little Keeley was Trotty, and his wife, Margaret Veck ; 
The Battle of Life, The Cricket on the Hearth — Mrs. 
Keeley was an incomparable Dot — and numerous 
extravaganzas by Mark Lemon, Gilbert k Beckett, and 
others. The Caudle Lectures were also dramatised, 
with Keeley as Mrs. Caudle. 

The Keeley management terminated on June nth, 
1847, in consequence of a disagreement with Arnold, 
the principal landlord, and on October i8th, Madame 
Vestris succeeded to the vacant throne, with one of the 
finest comedy companies ©f modern days — Mrs. Fitz- 
william, Mrs. Leigh Murray, Miss Fairbrother — a 
charming and beautiful actress, afterwards the morganatic 
wife of the Duke of Cambridge — ^and Mrs. Stirling; 
Charles Mathews, Frank Matthews (no relation beyond 
the name), whose mellow, unctuous old men were a 
delight to witness, Leigh Murray, a very fine comedian, 


Meadows, Charles Selby, Harley, quaintest of comedians, 
Buckstone, oiliest and raciest of his kind, and last, but 
not least, the manageress herself, though then, alas.! 
falling into the sere and yellow leaf. 

The opening piece was The Pride of the Market ; but 
the successes of the season were Used Up, Box and Cox, 
and A Rough Diamond. The Lyceum, under the new 
management, became the most delightful theatrical 
resort in all London. Extravaganza and burlesque, as 
written by Planch^ and as mounted by Vestris, were 
brought to the highest excellence of which they were 
capable — Riquet with the Tuft^ King Charming, The 
King of the Peacocks, The Island of Jewels, were among 
the most famous. 

It was in The Island of Jewels (1849), Planch^ tells 
us, that the first approach to a transformation scene was 
introduced. In the last scene William Beverley, who 
was the scenic artist, arranged the leaves of a palm tree 
to fall and discover six fairies, each supporting a coronet 
of jewels. ** It produced such an effect," he adds, "as I 
scarcely remember having witnessed on any similar 
occasion up to that period, and every theatre rushed into 
imitation.*' Such was the small beginning of those 
elaborate displays of scenic art. There were revivals of 
The Merry Wives of Windsor — Vestris, Mrs. Ford ; 
Mrs. Yates, Mrs. Page — and of The School for Scandal, 
and the production of Dance's once favourite comedy, 
A Wonderful Woman, in which Madame and Frank 
Matthews played so superbly. 

Madame Vestris had at this time passed the meridian 
of her powers, but Mathews was in the perfection of his, 
with a charm of style, an exquisite polish, that had no 
rival off the Parisian stage. In comedy, farce, or bur- 
lesque he was equally at home ; he could carry a whole 


piece upon his shoulders, without ever wearying an 
audience ; and in powers of transformation he was sur- 
passed only by his father. It was on this stage that 
Patter versus Clatter, and He would be an Actor, with 
their marvellous changes, mostly in front of the audience, 
together with the famous Game of Speculation (1851), 
first saw the footlights. A curious piece called The 
Chain of Events^ in eight acts, was brought out in 1852, 
with wonderful scenery and a built-up ship that was 
tossed about in a storm, the earliest mechanical stage 
effect of the kind. 

There was no lack of public support ; but, as every- 
body knows, the speculation ended in bankruptcy. Let 
the manager himself explain the causes of this disaster. 

** For seven years we worked day and night, with un- 
varying success, but the want of capital to fall back upon 
was for ever the drawback upon our efforts. Every 
piece used to be got up upon credit, and the outlay had 
always to be repaid before a profit could be realised ; 
and all the large receipts accruing from the brilliant 
houses from Christmas to Easter were more than 
swallowed up by the utter blank that followed from 
Easter to Michaelmas. . . . During these seven years, 
buoyed up by hope, I battled with my fate, and made 
head against my increasing difficulties, till one heavy fall 
of snow at Christmas spared me the trouble of continuing 
my existence." The fact was, Mathews entered upon 
the lesseeship burdened with debts standing over from 
the Olympic and Covent Garden failures, and was never 
out of the hands of the Jews. Then he had for wife one 
of the most extravagant of women, to whom the most 
costly luxuries had become necessities of life. In such a 
small item as gloves, for instance, she would sometimes 
use up a box in a single night ; if a pair, or half a dozen 


pairs in succession, fitted with the slightest crease, they 
were cast aside, and for every scene a fresh pair was put 
on. When lace curtains were required upon the stage 
they were real lace, and everything else was on the same 
scale; while so minutely particular was she in small 
matters, that she would pass a white laced handkerchief 
over the furniture of the green-room, and even the 
balusters of the staircases leading to the dressing-rooms, 
and woe to the cleaners if the delicate cambric was 
soiled. All that this meant can, perhaps, only be 
appreciated by those who are acquainted with that 
temple of dust — behind the scenes of a theatre. 

Mathews was made bankrupt, but obtained a first- 
class certificate. Soon afterwards he was arrested by an 
inveterate creditor and thrown into Lancaster gaol. 
More than once before he had had a narrow escape of 
such a fate, cL propos of which he used to tell some 
amusing stories. One night, as he was entering the 
stage-door of the Lyceum, a bailiff tapped him upon the 
shoulder. " Why have you not renewed the bill.^" asked 
the man. " He '* (the creditor) " wouldn't renew it," 
replied Mathews. ** Well, then, just write your name 
across this," said the man, producing a long slip of blue 
paper with a stamp in the corner. Mathews did so. 
** Now Tm your creditor, and shall be happy to renew if 
you can't pay at the end of the time." And with these 
words he disappeared. He had paid the debt out of his 
own pocket to save the actor from a prison. Who shall 
talk about stony-hearted bailiffs after that ? 

"How many times," Mathews writes, **have I gone 
upon the stage with a heavy heart and a merry face, to 
act the very part in jest that I was playing behind the 
scenes in earnest, and not a sympathetic smile to pity 
me. On the contrary, everybody seemed to believe that 


I revelled in it, and every allusion I had made to duns 
and bailiffs was hailed by the audience as the emanation 
of a light heart and most unctuous enjoyment Had I 
been a tragedian and walked on with a melancholy air 
and serious face, I should have cause for feeling my un- 
fortunate position — * Poor fellow, see how down he is ! ' 
But the painfully successful, effort of assuming gaiety 
and joyousness — difficult as it was — robbed me of all 
sympathy. * Pooh ! pooh ! he doesn't care, he likes it ; 
he's in his element.'" After being incarcerated for 
nearly a month in Lancaster gaol he was released. He 
had taken his seat in the railway carriage, bound for 
London, when a man sitting opposite to him pointed to 
the Castle, as they steamed by, and remarked to a lady 
sitting beside him, '* That's were Charley Mathews is ! " 
*' Really," answered the lady sympathetically, " poor 
fellow ! " ** Poor fellow ! not at all," answered the other ; 
" he revels in it Lord bless you, he's been in every 
prison in England!" A few days after his release 
Madame Vestris died. She had retired from the stage 
in 1854, in consequence of ill-health. The last piece she 
played in was a version of La Joie Fait Peur^ called 
Sunshine through the Clouds, 

Professor Anderson with " Magic and Mystery," and 
a season of Italian opera, consequent on the burning 
of Covent Garden, with Adelaide Ristori on the off 
nights, for opera was performed only three times a 
week in those days, filled up the interregnum between 
the passing of the Vestris-Mathews management and 
the coming of Charles Dillon. 

Dillon opened the Lyceum in 1856 in his great part 
Belphegor, and achieved an immediate success ; pictur- 
esque, glowing with passion, and with a power of pathos 
that has never been surpassed and seldom equalled, he 


roused the audience to the highest pitch of enthusiasm. 
J. L. Toole played Fanfaronade, and Marie Wilton, 
who had acted the part with Dillon at Bristol, where 
she had already made a brilliant reputation, was the 
Henri, a most exquisite bit of acting, which, with 
her piqttante and sprightly performance of Perdita in 
Brough's burlesque on The Winters Tale^ that con- 
cluded the programme, secured for her an emphatic 

Dillon's next character was D'Artagnan in The Three 
Musketeers, and not since EUiston had such robust and 
vividly picturesque acting been witnessed upon the 
stage. Charles Dillon well deserved to be called the 
English Frederick Lemaltre. Nor was his talent con- 
fined to melodrama ; there were scenes in his Virginius 
the like of which had not been seen since Macready, and 
his King Lear has not been equalled by any succeeding 
English actor. 

Italian opera and Ristori occupied the theatre during 
the summer months, and the Pyne and Harrison company 
during the autumn ; the latter drew immense houses 
with The Rose of Castile. Dillon resumed the manage- 
ment at Christmas with a splendid spectacle, Lalla 
Rookh, in which Miss Woolgar and J. L. Toole ap- 
peared. Miss Helen Faucit supported the manager 
in Macbeth, The Lady of Lyons, and Mttch Ado about 
Nothing, His last production was a revival of Louis 

Dillon had the ball at his feet, and had he possessed 
the tact, the culture, and the judgment of Henry Irving, 
he might have anticipated the latter s success. But 
Dillon had been trained in a bad school ; he had risen 
out of the mire of the profession, and, with little 
education beyond such as he had picked up in his 


professional career, he could not shake off old habits 
and associations. When he should have been attending 
to the business of the stage, he was at the bar of a 
public-house surrounded by unworthy parasites. After 
a tedious and ineffective rehearsal, to which he paid little 
attention, he would dine off a rump-steak and a pot 
of porter in his dressing-room ; then, cigar in mouth, 
stroll round into the Sfrand to see the people flocking 
to the pit, dress hurriedly at the last moment, and when 
the performance was over carouse "potations pottle 
deep " with some of his satellites. Though he lived in 
no style beyond keeping a plain brougham, he was always 
over head and ears in debt, borrowed money at loo per 
cent., and often paid 200 ; so that although the receipts 
of the theatre were very large, as fast as the money 
came in it was appropriated by greedy creditors, and 
at the end of two seasons he had to retire. 

It is worth noting that it was under Charles Dillon's 
management that stalls were permanently established at 
the Lyceum ; the charge was at first only five shillings, 
but was afterwards raised to six. 

Edmund Falconer was the next manager, and made a 
great hit with Extremes ; or. Men of the Day, of which 
he was the author. But the one success being followed 
by several failures, the theatre again became tenantless, 
until it was opened by Madame Celeste. Her principal 
success was a dramatised version of A Tale of Two 
Cities^ in which she gave a wonderful rendering of 
Madame Dufarge. But at the end of the second season 
she retired a heavy loser by her speculation. More 
Italian opera with Titiens, Alboni, Giuglini, after which 
Falconer again took up the management. His first 
production, August, 1861 — Woman against the Worlds 
with Mrs. Charles Young, afterwards Mrs. Hermann 


Vezin — was a go. His second, The Peep 0' Day Boysy 
was played considerably over a twelvemonth, and all 
London flocked to see the great quarry scene and the 
heroine precipitated from the breaking bridge, which in 
breathless excitement rivalled the water-cave of The 
Colleen Bawn. 

When Falconer went to Drury Lane the famous 
French actor, Charles Fechter, took over the lease. 
Fechter inaugurated a new era in English histrionic art 
that led to the great theatrical revival of the nineteenth 
century. He began by revolutionising the stage. The 
ancient grooves, trap-doors, and sticky flats were 
abolished, the flooring so constructed that it could be 
taken to pieces like a child's puzzle, scenery could be 
raised or sunk bodily, and all the shifting was done on 
the mezzanine stage beneath ; ceilings were no longer 
represented by hanging cloths, or the walls of a room by 
open wings, but were solidly built,^ the old glaring ** floats," 
which used to make such hideous lights and shadows 
upon the faces of the performers, were sunk and subdued, 
and set scene succeeded set scene with a rapidity that in 
those days, when seldom more than one set was attempted 
in each act, was regarded as marvellous. 

But it was not alone in the mechanical and artistic 
departments that Fechter wrought such startling changes : 
he shook to their foundation the worn-out traditions of 
the old school of acting, which, however excellent it 
might have been in its time, had become musty and 

Fechter was well known to the London public, as he 
had already played Hamlet at the Princess's, when he 

^ There is nothing new under the sun. Goethe, in his Autobiography, 
part 3, book xi., says that in the French theatres (even in his youth) they 
shut in the sides and formed real walls for the interior scenes. 


opened the Lyceum on January loth, 1863, with The 
Duke's Motto. Henri Largardere was one of his most 
brilliant parts, and he crowded the Lyceum for many 
months with all the brains and all the fashion of Lon- 
don. Yet its magnificent mounting was surpassed by that 
of Beldemonio^ which followed, and was succeeded by 
Hamlet, Of Fechter s interpretation of the part I shall 
have something to say when I come to the Princess's. 

The King's Butterfly {Fan/an la Tulipe), The Road- 
side Inn {Robert Macaire)^ The Mountebank, a version 
of Belphegor^ and Ruy Bias made up the principal work 
of the second season, which ended with a loss. In the 
third a poor drama, entitled The Watch Cry, in which 
Fechter played a dumb part in wonderful pantomime, 
was followed by one of his finest efforts. The Master of 
Ravenswood; his delineation of Scott's fated hero was 
superb; very beautiful was Carlotta Leclercqs Lucy; 
Emery's Caleb Balderstone was a gem, and the quick- 
sand effect in the last act has never been excelled, either 
in effect or ingenuity. The play was a great success. 
A revival of The Corsican Brothers, with several im- 
portant innovations from Kean's method, came next, and 
such a rendering of the twin brothers has never been 
seen before or since. Boucicault occupied the stage in 
the autumn following with his own drama. The Long 
Strike, Fechter returned at Christmas with Rouge et 
Noir, an adaptation of the famous La Vie dun Jouer, 
previously known in England by a version called The 
Hut of the Red Mountains. 

The great French actor was admirably seconded by 
Kate Terry, Carlotta Leclercq, Hermann Vezin, Emery, 
George Jordan, Addison, Harry Widdicombe, Mrs. 
Ternan, Miss Henrade, etc. His last important pro- 
duction was The Lady of Lyons, Bulwer's hero is 


essentially French, and, taken for all in all, perhaps, the 
author s conception was never before so vividly realised ; 
the high-falutin speeches put into the mouth of Claude 
were, for the first time, not premeditated declamation, 
but bursts of natural emotion, and even that most 
artificial harangue in the cottage scene had such intensity 
of conviction and abandon that the tinsel seemed gold. 
Fechter s power lay in that glowing passion, that wonder- 
ful picturesqueness, which carry away the imagination 
of the audience, qualities that are no longer to be found 
upon our stage. The reign which commenced so 
brilliantly closed but gloomily on May 24th, 1867, with 
a performance of The Duke^s Motto. 

E. T. Smith carried on the theatre for the next two 
seasons. He produced Westland Marston's Life for 
Life^ in which Adelaide Neilson made her first great 
hit as a poetical actress ; Bulwer Lytton's very much 
out-of-date play The Sea Captain, renamed The Right- 
ful Heir, during the same season, was the only other 
event of note that need be recorded here. 

Under the management of the Mansell brothers an 
experiment in opera-bouffe was made by the production 
of Chilp^ric, but proved a dismal failure. And when, in 
the autumn of 1871, Mr. H. L. Bateman entered upon 
the speculation, everyone prophesied a like fate for him. 
And at the start it seemed as though their gloomy 
vaticinations would certainly be realised. Bateman took 
the Lyceum especially to bring forward his daughter 
Isabel, in whom he believed he had a prize equal to her 
sister Kate, of Leah fame. He commenced his campaign 
with a dramatic version of George Sand's La Petite 
Fadette, called Fanchette. Both play and actress failed. 
Pickwick, with Irving as Jingle, was a succ^s d'estime, 
but there was no money in it. Matters were growing 


desperate, and as a pis alter a piece by Leopold Lewis, 
founded upon one of Erckman-Chatrains celebrated 
stories, at that time in Henry Irving's possession, was 
put in the bills. 

Bateman had regarded that fine character-actor, 
George Belmore, as the second string to his bow, for 
although Irving had made his mark at the St. James's 
and at the Queen's in Long Acre, and more especially 
at the Vaudeville, as Digby Grant, no one was pre- 
pared for such a revelation of power and originality 
as burst upon the town on that November night in 
1 87 1, when he gave his first performance of the ghost- 
haunted Burgomaster, Mathias. 

We must go back to the night when Robson first 
played Shylock to find a parallel to the sensation he 
made. The drama ran 150 nights to overflowing 
houses. Later on Irving appeared as Jeremy Diddler 
in Raising the Wind, and Kate Bateman as Leah, and 
Medea, in a new version of the classical tragedy by Wills. 

Irving's next hit was in Charles /., September, 1872, 
which ran 180 nights, a beautiful poetical play, and 
Irving s acting in it " one entire and perfect chrysolite.'* 
The stage has never given us anything finer of the kind 
in dignity, in pathos, in kingliness. Isabel Bateman 
played the Queen excellently, but it was not until Ellen 
Terry took up the character that we could realise all the 
awful agony of the parting in the last scene, that drowned 
the house in tears. In the following year we had Eugene 
Araviy a powerful drama, but not very successful. Yet 
Irving has done few things more striking than the first 
scene with Houseman ; the sudden transition from the 
calm, poetical scholar to the fierce, determined man 
revealed the whole psychology of the character by a 
single flash. 


Richelieu was a production of 1873, a fine perform- 
ance, which in the anathema rose almost to greatness. 
Philip, a charming drama, followed in February, and 
was admirably acted both by the leading actor and John 

But it was in the following season, on October 31st, 
1874, when Irving appeared as Hamlet, that his 
popularity rose to its greatest height. Manager Bate- 
man was a king among entrepreneurs ; he worked the 
Press for all it was worth, and sent invitations to the 
editors of all the great provincial papers. They accepted, 
and next morning their eulogies were scattered all over 
the kingdom. Hamlet ran until June 25th, 1875, out- 
living poor Bateman, who died in the previous March. 

Macbeth was the piece de resistance of the autumn 
of 1875, and was splendidly staged; from the first 
scene, where the weird sisters loomed out of the chaotic 
darkness by flashes of lightning, to the black, ponderous 
stonework of Glamis Castle and the towers of Dunsinane, 
bathed in blood-red sunset, we were never out of the 
fateful atmosphere of the mighty tragedy. When he 
reproduced the play in 1888, Irving had greatly im- 
proved upon his first rendering, notably of the murder 
scene ; there were some very fine points in the fourth 
act — the sense of doom in the gloomy utterance and 
haggard face — but the craven conception of **the noble 
Thane" can never be acceptable, and the last act was 
weak. Miss Bateman was the Lady Macbeth. 

It is best to pass over Ot hello , February, 1876, in 
silence. It soon gave place to Tennyson's Queen Mary, 
in which Miss Bateman played the title-r61e and Irving 
Philip of Spain; another failure. It was followed by 
The Belles Stratagem. The Carl Rosa Company had 
possession of the house during the autumn, and Miss 


Bateman opened the dramatic season with Fazio. The 
next great revival was Richard III. from the text, in 
January, 1877. I have always considered this to be 
one of Sir Henry's best Shakespearian parts. The last 
act was deficient in physical power, but the conception 
was full of intensity and subtlety,' while some of the 
scenes were remarkably striking. 

The Lyons Mail followed Richard. Then, at the 
beginning of the new year, Louis XI. ^ the finest thing 
he had yet done ; a wonderful study. Vanderdecken 
was the next production. This was Mrs. Bateman s 
last season, and on December 30th, 1878, Henry Irving 
became sole lessee of the Lyceum. He began with an 
elaborate revival of Hamlet, and Ellen Terry made her 
first appearance here as Ophelia. The Lady of Lyons 
ended the season. The next opened with The Iron 
Chest, but it was not a success, and soon gave place to 
one of Irving's most notable revivals, The Merchant of 
Venice. It was a dream of ancient Venice, bathed in 
an atmosphere of enchanting poetry. And what a piece 
of acting was Ellen Terry's Portia ! How tender^ how 
womanly, and altogether delightful. Irving*s Jew was 
very fine, but a little too mild. The revival was a 
prodigious success, achieving the longest run on record, 
to celebrate which the manager gave a sumptuous 
supper on the stage after the performance, on the 
hundredth night, at which Lord Houghton presided. 

A very elaborate get-up of The Corsican Brothers 
commenced the next season. Irving followed Kean's 
conception of the dual r61e, but after Fechter, who threw 
all the fierce Corsican nature into the last act, the deadly 
northern calm of Irving, where he confronted ChS-teau 
Renaud, was not convincing. 

I could never understand why The Cup (1881) was 


never revived after its first production. No grander 
scene was ever set upon the Lyceum stage than the 
Temple of Artemis, and Miss Terry s Camma was a 
beautiful performance. In May, Irving and Booth 
alternated Othello and I ago. Both the Othellos were 
bad, but Irving s lago was consummately fine. A re- 
vival of The Two Roses must be mentioned, since it 
introduced George Alexander to the London stage in 
the part of Caleb Deecie. 

The event of 1882 was the production of Romeo and 
Juliet, Irving made three huge mistakes when he played 
Othello, Claude Melnotte, and Romeo, and it was only 
in certain scenes, notably that with the Nurse, that Miss 
Terry rose to the occasion. Terriss was utterly con- 
ventional as Mercutio ; the only well-played parts were 
the Nurse of Mrs. Stirling and the Apothecary of Tom 
Mead. And yet with such exquisite art was the tragedy 
evolved, that never was I so impressed by its marvellous 
beauty as on the three occasions that I witnessed it at 
the Lyceum. I was living in the halls and streets of 
mediaeval Italy ; I felt the glow of the sunshine, the chill 
of the vault of all the Capulets, and I was overwhelmed 
by the fatalism of the immortal love story. The genius 
of a great artist pervaded the whole, and communicated 
its sense of harmony to the spectator. 

If Ellen Terry fell short of our desires as Juliet, she 
infinitely exceeded all expectations as Beatrice, when 
Much Ado about Nothing was produced in October, 
1882. She played Leonatos daughter as it had never 
been played before ; she broke through every tradition 
of the part, she was a law unto herself in it ; yet even the 
most orthodox of old actors grew enthusiastic over her, 
and some even declared her to be the most delightful 
Beatrice they had ever seen. 


Miss Mary Anderson made her London ddbut here in 
1883, while Irving was on his first American tour, and 
by her beautiful face and figure and graceful pose 
captivated the town as Galatea and in other parts. 
Another American, Lawrence Barrett, a good actor, 
failed to make much impression in a play called Yorick. 
Later in the year 1884, Irving, on his return from 
America, revived Twelfth NighL Not one of his 
happiest efforts, but Ellen Terry was an exquisite Viola. 

During the summer extensive alterations were made 
in the theatre, the roof of the gallery was raised, the 
dress-circle enlarged, and the principal entrance recon- 
structed. In the autumn Miss Anderson attempted 
Juliet in a costly get-up of Shakespeare s tragedy. 

Calling up, as I write, memories of famous Lyceum 
first nights, not one is more delightful than lh% premiere 
of Olivia, May, 1885. As Romeo and Juliet was fired 
with the passion and turbulence of mediaevalism, so was 
Olivia steeped in the pastoral quietude of the eighteenth 
century, when there were no unrest and " burning 
questions," and life passed drowsily and evenly. Irving's 
Vicar was charming ; it revealed a depth of pathos never 
suspected by his admirers. Olivia was one of Miss 
Terry s most adorable performances. When she struck 
Thornhill with the cry ** Devil ! " what a thrill went 
through the house, then a hurricane of applause. But 
how risky it was ; only the intense conviction of the 
actress saved it from a laugh. The scene between 
father and daughter, and the return of the wanderers 
were never surpassed in pathos ; there was not a dry eye 
in the house ; even the hardened critics blew their noses 
and furtively wiped their cheeks. 

But it must be conceded that the 19th of December, 
1885, the first night of Faust , was, after all, the greatest 


of Lyceum premieres. The applications for reserved 
seats would have taxed the capacity of a dozen, theatres 
— thousands came from Germany alone. People 
gathered about the pit and gallery doors at nine in the 
morning ; by six o clock the crowd was half-way across 
the road of the Strand. Scores of despairing women 
gathered in the vestibule in the forlorn hope of returned 
seats, casting beseeching eyes upon Joe Hurst, whose 
visage was stern and inexorable ; some were so desperate 
that they seemed more than half inclined to make a 
rush up the stairs. It was a wonderful production. . The 
old German streets, Margaret's garden, the Brocken with 
the wild, grey, misty revel, and eldritch screams of the 
witches whirling round the crimson, electric figure of the 
fiend. And after all the terrors, the dawn-lit ancient 
city of Nuremberg. I think Irving was at his best on 
the first night ; he was more reposeful, yet more terribly 
intense than afterwards. What a fiasco poor Conway 
made as Faust, as great as Alexanders success in 
Valentine. The latter soon afterwards succeeded to the 
title-r61e. But vivid above all other impressions of the 
play is the Margaret of Ellen Terry ; from the few 
words of her first entrance, through the joyousness of the 
jewels scene, the simple pathos and exquisite tenderness 
of the love duologues, the overwhelming agony at the 
fountain, the frantic despair in the church, und the 
madness and death of the end. What a performance 
it was! 

The 138th night of Faust, which closed the season, was 
notable as marking the last appearance of Mrs. Stirling 
upon the stage, after a service to her art of fifty- 
seven years. In her early days she was an incomparable 
heroine of domestic drama, and a good all-round actress ; 
in her later years a supreme exponent of the old woman 


of classical comedy. Mrs. Malaprop died with her. 
Martha was her last character. 

The continuity of the Irving management was now 
constantly broken by the American tours. Sarah Bern- 
hardt was here with Theodora in 1887 ; Richard Mans- 
field, the American actor, appeared in a version of 
Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with little success ; 
and Miss Anderson gave an elaborate revival of Tke 
Winter's Tale in 1888. In the June of the same year 
Miss Terry appeared in one of the most exquisite of 
her creations, EUaline in The Amber Heart, and Irving 
played Robert Macaire. In the summer of 1889, Verdi's 
Otello was first sung in England with Tamagno and 
Maurel ; and Sarah Bernhardt played another season, 
in which she acted La Tosca for the first time in 

The autumn production was The Dead Heart, of 
which nothing good can be said ; then followed Macbeth^ 
with Miss Terry as the Lady, a character she should 
never have attempted. Ravenswood could not compare 
with Fechter s version, especially in the acting. 

1 89 1, another trip to America, during which great 
improvements were again effected in the theatre. 
Splendidly redecorated, it was opened by the Daly 
company. 1892, Henry VHL Not even on this 
stage was the revel at York Place, with the masque, 
"the white satin dance," to Edward German's quaint 
music, which is now known to everyone, surpassed. 
Irving s Wolsey was a well - considered performance ; 
Miss Terry's Queen Katherine — another mistake. King 
Lear belongs to the same year. Lear was quite outside 
the limits of Irving s art, and in avoiding the traditions 
of his predecessors, he stripped the character of all 
grandeur, while in the mad scenes he not only failed 


to indicate a powerful intellect shattered, but he degraded 
the once great monarch to the level of a doddering 
lunatic A creation so stupendous as King Lear cannot 
be dragged down from the sublime heights, where it 
stands beside QEdipus and Prometheus, to the gutters of 
realism, without the incongruity being apparent to the 
least artistic intelligence. The grand mise en sdne and 
Ellen Terry's Cordelia — ^and never had Shakespeare's 
heroine a more exquisite interpretation — were the only 
redeeming features of a very inadequate production. 

But this fiasco was atoned by the glorious triumph of 
Tennyson's Becket (1893). Many, like myself, consider 
that Irving attained to the zenith of his art in this 
tragedy, and that the martyr of Canterbury is the 
greatest piece of acting he has given us. Never before 
did he equal the grandeur of his defiance of the nobles 
in the Hall of Northampton Castle, the stern asceticism, 
the devotional fervour of the later scenes, or the solemn 
impressiveness of the death. Rosamond, perhaps, was 
the last of those beautiful creations by which Miss Terry 
will be chiefly remembered in the years to come, for her 
Imogen was a disappointment 

Ellen Terry was the one poetical actress of her 
generation — her own sister, Marian, was nearest to her ; 
all her most celebrated contemporaries were realists. 
Charles Reade said of her : ** She is an enigma ; her 
eyes are pale, her nose rather long, her mouth nothing 
particular. Her complexion a delicate brick-dust, her 
hair rather like tow. Yet, somehow, she is beautiful. 
Her expression kills any pretty face you see beside her. 
She is a pattern of fawn-like grace. Whether in move- 
ment or repose, grace pervades the hussy." As in 
private life, this rare fascination was one of the secrets 
of her public success ; a fascination so absolute that it 



carried you away without the power to criticise. Her 
Ophelia, Desdemona, Cordelia, Portia, Beatrice could 
never hav^e been surpassed by the actresses of past days, 
and leave all of her own generation far behind. Sarah 
Bernhardt has said that her greatest treat was to see 
Ellen Terry act, and Wendell Holmes, when she was 
in America, after her mad scene of Ophelia, paid homage 
to her by kissing the hem of her dress. Yet in her 
early days she showed no promise of future excellence. 
The Bancrofts were the first to draw forth the latent 
fire in Portia. But it was only under Henry Irving 
that her genius was fully developed. One regret of 
all playgoers is that they have never seen her in the 
part of parts, of which she would have been an ideal 
representative — Rosalind ; another, that she should ever 
have attempted characters so utterly outside her limits 
as Lady Macbeth, Queen Katherine, and The Viking 
heroine. But such mistakes have been made by all 
great artistes in all ages. 

Irving was never famous for the companies he 
gathered about him ; his confreres were efficient, and 
that was all. William Terriss was, perhaps, the most 
conspicuous ; his best parts were Squire Thornhill, 
Henry VIII., and Henry II. 

And now briefly to resume the chronicle of the 
Lyceum. King Arthur was the not very commend- 
able production of 1894; Don Quixote and A Story of 
Waterloo of 1895. As Corporal Brewster, Irving scored 
another triumph ; he has done nothing more perfect ; 
perhaps in no other part has he so completely sunk 
Henry Irving in the character he represents. 

Another of the manager s American trips left the 
Lyceum in possession of Forbes Robertson and Mrs. 
Patrick Campbell. Michael and His Lost Angel, a fine 


piece of work, was, from causes which I have not space 
to discuss, strangled in its birth. For the Crown, a 
noble play, though well acted, was beyond the genius 
of its exponents. Irving's autumn production, Cymbe- 
line, 1876, was not remarkable from any point of view. 
It was followed by a reproduction of Richard 111., and 
in 1897, Miss Terry played R6jane's great part, Madame 
St. G6ne, not unsuccessfully. Peter the Great and The 
Medicine Man, 1898, need not be dwelt upon. 

The splendid fortune which had shone upon the 
Lyceum since the first night of The Bells, thanks to 
plays that did not catch on with the public and Irving's 
repeated and long absences in the States, was waning 
fast. Irving relinquished the management, which was 
taken up by a syndicate, with Mr. Comyns Carr as 
managing director. Much abuse has been heaped upon 
the head of the actor-manager ; yet he has, at least, a 
love for his art, and, whatever mistakes he may commit 
through egotism, he has some knowledge of it ; but a 
syndicate of business men would sacrifice the genius 
of the world, from Homer to Tennyson, to add one per 
per cent to a dividend, and the voice of one man of 
culture is certain to be overpowered by the clamour of 
the Philistine board. 

Coquelin appeared as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 
summer of 1898, and during the autumn and winter 
Forbes Robertson and Mrs. Campbell again occupied 
the boards. Robespierre, 1899, was the next Irving pro- 
duction. Wilson Barrett followed with revivals of The 
Silver King and other plays, and the Benson company 
played a season before Sir Henry returned to stage 
Coriolanus. No character could have been more 
unsuited to his subtle, purely intellectual style than 
Caius Marcius, which requires the greatest breadth and 


physical power. By, as in Lear, pedantically ignoring 
the traditions of his predecessors, he rendered the part 
colourless ; the Coriolanus of Plutarch did not sneer at 
his enemies, he bullied them, and the flying legions of 
Rome would certainly not have rushed back to victory 
had they been objurgated in the style adopted by Sir 
Henry Irving. Lewis Waller followed on with Tke 
Three Mmketeers in the autumn, and Henry V. began 
the new century. In 1901, Sherlock Holmes took the 
stage. In the following year there was a revival of 
FausL Oh what a falling off was there ! And on July 
19th, 1902, the curtain fell, for the last time, on a 
performance of The Merchant of Venice and Waterloo — 
and the story of the Lyceum was ended. 

I have dwelt at some length upon the history of this 
house, as for many years it was the premier theatre, 
the Com^die Fran9aise of England, and the Irving 
management its supreme factor. It would be scarcely 
possible to over-estimate the benignant influence which 
Sir Henry has exercised over the English stage. The 
soul of generosity, with a personality that has won 
for him the friendship of all sorts and conditions of men, 
he attracted to the theatre people of all shades of 
thought, from the bishop to the scientist; and, completing 
the work initiated by Fechter and the Bancrofts, he 
has been chiefly instrumental in raising the drama and 
the actor from the pitiful slough of the middle Victorian 
period to the position they held under James I. 

Poor old theatre, to which for so many thousands of 
nights all the intellect, all the beauty, all the fashion 
from all parts of the world flocked eagerly, whose doings 
were discussed from India to Land's End, scene of such 
brilliant assemblies, of such delightful memories, of the 
triumphs of so many great artistes, living and dead. 


thou art now but the salle des pas perdus; the applause 
is hushed, the lights are extinguished for ever, the rats 
are thy only tenants, the dust of death is over all, and 
thou art only awaiting the coming of the housebreaker 
to be among the things that have been and are not. 

Any account of the Lyceum would be incomplete 
without some reference to a famous institution which, 
during fifty years, had its home within those walls. I 
refer to the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, founded 
by John Rich in 1735. 

During seventy years the meetings were held in a 
room in Covent Garden. When the theatre was burned 
down in 1808, the society took up its quarters for one 
year at the Bedford Coffee House. Thence in 1809 ^^ 
removed to the Lyceum. Upon the rebuilding of the 
house after the fire, a couple of rooms were added for 
their especial accommodation, and there all meetings 
were held until the dissolution of the club in 1867. Sir 
Henry Irving used them as reception-rooms. The 
*'Steakers" were very aristocratic and very exclusive. 
It was rigidly laid down that their number should never 
exceed twenty-four, and they would not make an ex- 
ception even for the Prince Regent, who had to wait his 
turn. The members met every Saturday night to eat 
beef-steaks and drink port wine. At the end of the 
dining-room was an enormous grating in the form of 
a gridiron, through which the fire was seen, and the 
steaks were handed from the kitchen. Over this was 
the quotation : — 

" If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well 
It were done quickly." 

There was perfect equality, and the last-made member, 


even were he of royal blood, was made the fag of the 

There is a capital story told of this peculiarity of the 
society. On a certain occasion, when a large and dis- 
tinguished party had met, a wealthy and pretentious 
Liverpool merchant was among the guests. Something 
occurred to rouse his suspicion that the royal and 
titled persons were myths, and he communicated this 
conviction to his host, remarking that it was a very good 
joke, but he saw through it. The idea was instantly 
seized, and the Beefsteaks, to keep up the delusion, 
resolved themselves into a society of tradesmen. The 
Duke of Sussex reproached Alderman Wood for the 
tough steaks he had sent last Saturday. The Alderman 
retorted upon his royal brother by complaining of the ill- 
fitting stays he had sent his wife. Sir Francis Burdett 
told Whitbread his last cask of beer was sour, and the 
latter accounted for it by saying that it had been left too 
long in the Tower. A leaf had to be withdrawn to 
shorten the table, and in closing it the chair of the Duke 
of Leinster, who was president, was overbalanced, and 
both the duke and the chair fell into the grate. No one 
moved, everybody roared, and His Grace had to scramble 
to his feet as best he could. This confirmed the mer- 
chant's scepticism. "Why," he said, "if he had been a 
real duke, would they not all have run to pick him up ?" 


The Tottenham Street Theatre, better known as The Prince of Wales's, 
1809-82— A Curious Chapter in Theatrical History. 

SOMEWHERE in the latter decades of the eight- 
eenth century a Signior Paschali built a concert- 
room in Tottenham Street, Tottenham Court Road, 
which was afterwards purchased and enlarged by the 
directors of the "Concerts of Ancient Music," whose 
entertainments were "patronised by royalty." In 1802 
the building came into the hands of a society of amateur 
actors called the Pic Nics, who frequently provoked the 
satiric pencil of Gilray, and their success was great 
enough to bring down upon them the hostility of the 
legitimate theatres. 

Six years later the concert-room was converted into 
a circus, which, however, enjoyed a very brief existence. 
After being closed for a time, Mr. Paul, a gunsmith 
and silversmith in the Strand, whose wife fancied she 
had a call for the stage, and would speedily become a 
second Vestris, bought the place and fitted it up as 
a theatre. The lady opened as Rosetta in Love in a 
Village. At the end of a few months the unfortunate 
husband was in the bankruptcy court, after which the 
assignees and some tradesmen attempted to carry on the 
theatre; 'but the loss was so heavy that they soon gave 
up their undertaking. 

In the December of 18 14 the property, which had cost 



;^4,cxxD, was sold to Mr. Harry Beverley for ;^3i5, and 
the scenery and other accessories were thrown in for 
another ;^300 ; while the rent was only £1^7 per annum 
and the taxes ;^35. After some considerable alterations 
it was opened early in the following year under the name 
of the Regency Theatre of Varieties. It was essentially 
a minor, with a very mediocre company, though the 
manager — the father, by-the-by, of William Beverley, the 
famous scenic artist — and his brother, Roxby Beverley, 
were both exceedingly clever actors who, had they 
chosen to remain in London, would have been in the 
foremost rank of comedians ; but preferring to reign in the 
provinces rather than to serve in a principal London 
theatre, they became the proprietors of a circuit in the 

The Regency, thanks to the restrictive laws, did not 
provide a very elevated style of entertainment for its 
patrons, melodrama and farce being the staple fare. 
After six years', struggle the Beverleys retired in favour 
of Brunton, but they returned for a season or two in 
1826. Brunton, on assuming the management, re- 
christened the house the West London Theatre, and 
introduced a superior style of entertainment, while his 
daughter, afterwards Mrs. Yates, of whom some account 
will be found in the chapter on the Adelphi, became the 
bright particular star. Talk about driving a coach and 
four through an Act of Parliament, that feat was 
certainly accomplished by Brunton when, in spite of the 
patent theatres, he played She Stoops to Conqtier, The 
School for Scandal, The Wonder^ and called them ** bur- 
lettas," introducing a song or a few chords of music here 
and there to keep up the farce. 

A little later on Planch6 describes the place as " about 
as dark and dingy a den as ever sheltered th^ children 


of Thespis." The stage was only twenty-one feet wide 
at the proscenium and thirty-six feet deep; the prices 
ranged from four shillings to one ; the auditorium would 
hold about ;^i30. A picture now before me represent- 
ing the exterior of the theatre in 1826 shows that no 
alteration was ever made in the street frontage ; there is 
the ugly squat portico and the blank wall beyond, just as 
they appeared to the last. 

In 1826 the West London became the home of the 
French companies who visited London. There was a 
subscription season of forty nights ; the plays, however, 
were given only once or twice a week during winter and 
spring. It is suggestive to mention that when Mdlle. 
Georges was engaged, the prices were raised to two 
shillings and five ; but the aristocracy, who at that time 
alone supported foreign companies, would not pay the 
price, and the great Parisian actress appeared to empty 

During 1829, three different managers tried their 
fortunes at the West London — Tom Dibdin, Watkins 
Burroughs, and Mrs. Waylett. The latter, who made 
her London d6but at the Adelphi, was now in the first 
rank of English cantatrices, rivalling Mrs. Honey, and 
even the great Vestris herself. 

It is curious to mark how certain forms of art flourish 
and then disappear. During the early years of the 
nineteenth century there was a positive glut of English 
songstresses, Miss Stephens, Miss Love, Mrs. Honey, 
Mrs. Waylett, Madame Vestris, all of whom for beauty 
of voice, exquisite method and expression, especially in 
what, for lack of a better word, I must call the serio-comic 
style — an expression horribly vulgarised by the music-hall 
•* artistes" — have no successors in the present day. These 
ladies, with the exception of the last, who frequently 


soared into a much higher region of art, were essentially 
ballad singers, and their favourite songs were brought 
into every piece they appeared in, with an utter dis- 
regard of the fitness of things which seems quite amazing^ 
to an age that prides itself upon its rigid correctness in 
theatrical details ; as an instance, in a dramatic version 
of Beaumarchais's Mariage de Figaro y in which she 
played Susanna, Mrs. Waylett sang " The Soldier's 
Tear," " Td be a Butterfly," "The Light Guitar," *' My 
Own Bluebell," while in a version of Boieldieusyi^^«»^ 
de Paris she introduced, as the Princess of Navarre, 
" IVe Been Roaming," "The Merry Swiss Boy," "Oh, 
No, We Never Mention Her," and **The Dashing 
White Sergeant."' 

The fair manageress surrounded herself with a capital 
company, including Miss Jarman, afterwards Mrs. 
Ternan, a charming actress; Vining, Alexander 
Lee, etc. ; but, although she added melodrama to these 
more elegant pieces, the public did not support her, and 
she soon gave place to other ambitious spirits. 

Mrs. Fitzwilliam seems to have been one of these,^ but 
was very soon succeeded by Melrose and Chapman, who 
so greatly embroiled themselves with the patentees that 
the owners of the theatre expelled them. 

In January, 183 1, after being closed some little time 
for alterations and decorations, the theatre in Tottenham 
Street, as it had been called during the past two years, 
was once more rechristened the Queen's, and reopened 
under the management of Mrs. Nisbett, who brought 
with her Mrs. Glover, Mrs. Humby, and a good stock 
company. If it had been possible to make this unlucky 

* See also p. 278. 

' It is very difficult to ascertain the actual managers from the playbills 
as very frequently their names do not appear at all. 


theatre pay, that feat should have been accomplished 
by one of the most beautiful women and exquisite 
comediennes of the time.^ Old playgoers still speak raptur- 
ously of that silvery laugh, to hear which alone was 
worth a visit to the theatre ; of that wonderful verve and 
*'go" which, in the fullest sense of the word, created 
such parts as Constance in The Love Chase and Lady 
Gay Spanker in London Assurance ; but although she 
and Mrs. Glover played nightly in light pieces, Mrs. 
Nisbett, in April, had to engage an extra attraction in 
the person of a French pantomime actress, Madame 
Celeste, who here made her first appearance in London, 
at the age of fifteen,^ as a dumb Arab boy, in a piece 
called The French Spy, a part which, as she could not 
speak one word of English, was played throughout in 
dumbshow ; yet by the beauty and grace of her dancing 
and action she made a decided hit. 

In 1833 the name of the house was changed to the 
Fitzroy; but not for long, as two years later it once 
more became the Queen's, with Mrs. Nisbett s name 
again at the head of the bill. The person who found the 
money, however, was the notorious Ephraim Bond, the 
money-lender, who kept a gambling-house in St. James's 
Street, second only in importance to Crockford's (the 

^ Mrs. Nisbett, then Miss Mordaunt, had made her first appearance in 
London, as the Widow Cheerly, at Drury Lane, October i6th, 1829; but she 
had been on the stage from childhood, having played Juliet at ten as a 
juvenile prodigy. 

• Young as she was, Celeste had already played an engagement in 
America, where she married an officer named Elliot, who died shortly after- 
wards ; she had also appeared in Liverpool as Fenella in Masaniello, She 
returned to America in 1834, where she created so much enthusiasm that at 
Washington the people yoked themselves to her carriage and proclaimed 
her a citizen of the United States, while General Jackson himself presented 
her to the Council of Ministers. Leaving America with a considerable 
fortune, she reappeared at Drury Lane in 1837, and afterwards performed 
at the Haymarket and the Adelphi. 


Ephraim Sharpe of Disraeli s Henrietta Temple) ; he 
seems to have taken it for beautiful Mrs. Honey. There 
was an admirable company — Wrench, Elton, Tilbury, 
Morris Barnett, Tom Green, John Reeve, Mrs. Orger, 
Miss Murray, Mrs. Honey, and Mrs. NisbetL The 
lightest of light pieces were performed, sometimes as 
many as six one-act trifles making up the bill. 

During the Lent of 1837 and 1838 — ^by which time 
Mrs. Nisbett's name no longer figured as manageress, 
she being at that time at Covent Garden with Macready 
— Madame Vestris and Charles Mathews, in consequence 
of some absurd regulations, being unable to play at their 
own theatre, the Olympic, brought their company to 
Tottenham Street, when the theatre was again known 
as the Fitzroy. 

In the October of 1839 the house, rechristened the 
Queen's, came into the hands of Mr. C. J. James, a 
scenic artist, who, from that time until the final close of 
the theatre, was never dissociated from the management. 
For years the Queen's, or the D ust H oje, as it was 
irreverently called among actors, was one of the curiosi- 
ties of London. Mr. James began by reducing the 
prices to two shillings, one shilling, and sixpence, and 
this tariff was afterwards lowered to one shilling and 
sixpence, eightpence, and fourpence, with half-prices to 
boxes and pit. Melodramas of the most terrific de- 
scription, bearing the most tremendous titles, were 
performed. Only fancy going to see Footpad Joe, the 
Terror of Charing Cross; or, the Dog of the Abbey ; 
The Death Wedding ; or, the Witch of the Heath ; The 
Inn of Death ; or, the Dog Witness. The great star 
of the latter was Jack Matthews, who used to boast that 
he was the only ** Dog Hamlet." At booths and fairs 
this gentleman played the Prince of Denmark with a 


large black dog at his heels, who used to "bay the 
moon " at the sight of the ghost and throttle the king 
in the last scene, which would be arrived at in about 
half an hour after the commencement The Skeleton of 
the Wave; or, the Ocean Spirit , was another favourite 
play at the Queen s ; but what a feast of horrors for one 
night was The Demon Lord; The Poison Tree ; or, the 
Law of Java^ which in future bills became The Poison 
Tree of Java ; or^ the Spectre Bride and the Demon 
Nun ; and to wind up on this particular night, The 
Death Plank ; or^ the Dumh Sailor Boy. These highly 
seasoned dramas were, however, occasionally diversified 
by the engagement of Mrs. Nisbett, Mrs. Honey, and 
by Shakespearian productions. The style in which the 
plays were rendered may be imagined ; no burlesque 
was ever half so extravagant ; in one piece the villain 
was thrown into the corner fifteen times by the hero, 
and invariably consoled himself by the remark that he 
*'must dissemble,'* or that a "time would come." The 
acting, as may be imagined, was in unison with the 
drama Anything so utterly stilted and unnatural it 
would be impossible to conceive at the present day ; 
burlesque could not exaggerate it, as it was beyond the 
reach of exaggeration, even in the utterance of the 
simplest words. If a character asked for a piece of 
bread and cheese he would raise and lower his eyebrows 
three times, pause between each word, which was dragged 
up from the very pit of his stomach, and intoned as tragic- 
ally as though he had requested a cup of poison. 

The Queen s shared with the Bower Saloon in 
Stangate the reputation of being the lowest theatre in 
London; and then the neighbourhood! always im- 
pregnated with **an ancient and fish-like smell" from 
the fried fish, which was the staple commerce of the 


Street. Such was the house that Miss Marie Wilton, in 
1865, being at that time in search of a theatre, fixed 
upon as a home for elegant comedy. Truly it had 
been under the direction of Mrs. Nisbett, Mrs. Fitz- 
william, Mrs. Waylett, Madame Vestris, but that was a 
generation ago, and the experiment cannot be character- 
ised as anything less than daring in the extreme. 

What she saw one night upon visiting the theatre 
might have daunted the boldest resolution. I will give 
it in her own words: **Some of the occupants of the 
stalls (the price of admission was, I think, a shilling) 
were engaged between the acts in devouring oranges 
(their faces being buried in them) and drinking ginger- 
beer. Babies were being rocked or smacked to be 
quiet, which proceeding in many cases had an opposite 
effect. A woman looked up to our box, and seeing us 
staring aghast with, I suppose, an expression of horror 
upon my face, first of all * took a sight ' at us, and then 
shouted, * Now then, you stuck-up ones, come out of 
that, or ril send this ere orange at your *eads.* Mr. 
Byron went to the back of the box and laughed until we 
thought he would be ill. He said my face was a study. 
* Oh, Byron ! ' I said, * do you think the people from the 
West End will ever come into those seats ? ' * No,' he 
replied, ' not those seats.' Of course he made jokes the 
whole evening. One woman in the stalls called out, * I 
say, Mrs. Groves, 'ere's one for you,' at the same 
moment throwing a big orange ; upon which Mr. Byron 
remarked, * Nice woman, Mrs. Grove — orange grove.' 
I think, if I could, I would at that moment have retired 
from my bargain ; but the deed was done, and there was 
no going back from it." 

The money required to start the speculation, ;^i,cxx), 
Mrs. Bancroft informs us, was borrowed of her brother- 


in-law, Mr. Francis Drake, and with this the decorators 
and upholsterers were set to work to cleanse and furbish 
up the Dust Hole. When this task was done a balance 
of only £ 1 50 was left in the treasury, but from that 
time, again to quote her own words, " Not one shilling 
further was ever borrowed by me from, or given to me 
by anyone, living or dead, in connection with this enter- 
prise." H. J. Byron was in partnership with Miss 
Wilton, but risked only his work. The Prince of Wales 
having given permission for the use of his name, the 
theatre was opened un der its new management. ,iri . 
September, 186 5, with a comedietta by J. P. Wooler, 
entitled A Winning Hazardy Byron s burlesque of La 
Sonnambuluy in which Marie Wilton played Elvino, and 
the farce of Vandyke Brown; the company included 
*' little Johnny" Clarke, Fred Dewar, Bancroft, Miss 
Fanny Josephs, Miss Goodall, Miss Lavine, and three 
Miss Wiltons. The speculation was a success from 
the fi rst, and even on the opening night hansoms, for 
the first time for twenty -five years, drove up to the 
doors of the Tottenham Street Theatre. Yet on that 
first night the Prince of Wales's had the narrowest 
escape of being burned to the ground through a bundle 
of shavings having taken fire beneath the pit 

The next programme was Byron's War to the Knifey 
and a second burlesque from the same pen, Lucia de 
Lammermoor. But although the house paid from the 
beginning, the first reaj ly great success, was Tom Robert- 
son|s Society , produced on November nth, 1865^; this 
soon became the t alk o f the town^ Robertson had 
previously made a hit with David Garrick at the Hay- 
market ; but Society had gone the round of the managers, 
and had been rejected almost with contempt; indeed, 
one wrote ** bosh " across it. So much more depends, 


however, upon the circumstances under which a play- 
is put before the public than on the play itself. Many 
a fine work has failed simply from the fact that it was 
produced under inauspicious influences, while mediocre 
productions have attained a success far greater than 
their merits warranted, because they have happened just 
to fit an occasion and have been favoured by surround- 
ings. Society was clever, but not great, and the managers 
who rejected it were not so short-sighted as they may 
now appear to have been ; played under the conditions 
of dramatic art that then obtained, it would certainly 
have fallen flat ; as a new departure in the drama it 
req uired a n ew de parture in histrionic art for a successful 
interpretation ; that it secured at the Prince of Wales's, 
and at once hit the public taste. 

At the Christmas of 1865, Miss Wilton appeared as 
Little Don Giovanni ; her last burlesque part. Another 
comedy by H. J. Byron, A Hundred Thousand Pounds ; 
and then, on September 15th, 1866, Robertsons second 
comedy, OurSy suggested by Millais's picture "The Black 
Brunswicker." In Society the Robertsonian method was 
only in embryo, in Ours its form was fully developed, 
but it was reserved for Caste , produced April 6th, 1869, 
just after the dissolution of the Wilton- Byron partner- 
ship, to display its highest capabilities. The story was 
so human that it appealed to every kindly feeling of our 
nature, and was as sympathetic to the stalls as it was to 
the gallery. It was the Alpha and the Omega of the 
Robertsonian method ; it contained all that had gone 
before, anticipated all that was to come. 

The author, although a very bad actor, was a genius 
as a stage manager. After reading his comedies, people 
wonder what there was in dialogue, at times so bald, to 
fascinate an audience and draw them night after night 


to hang delightedly on every word.'Mt was not exactly 
the play, it was the novelty of the representation and 
the skill with which it was rendered that constituted the 
charm. The style of acting was a surprise ; nothing so 
perfectly realistic, so devoid of staginess, had ever yet 
been seen in an English theatre. But Robertson domi- 
nated all. "I don't want actors," he said ; "I want 
people that will do just what I tell them " ; and he 
certainly contrived to infuse the very souls of his creations 
into those who personated them. Looking back now, 
after a lapse of many years, when the school has passed 
away and a new order obtains in things theatrical, the 
glow of remembrance is almost as fervid as when those 
performances were the talk of every drawing-rooni. 
What a charming piece of acting was Younge's George 
D'Alroy; his many successor? never hit the simple- 
hearted, noble-minded gentleman, as Robertson con- 
ceived him, so perfectly as he did. Some tried the lisp, 
but it never had the same effect ; it was an excrescence 
with them, while with him it was full of suggestion ; 
again, all succeeding George D'Alroys were a little too 
clever to fall in love with the poor ballet-girl ; but when 
Younge played the part, you never for a moment were 
in doubt as to the probability, for it was exactly what 
that George D'Alroy would have done. Bancroft's 
drawling but fine-hearted swell was admirable in its 
freshness and departure from old types. Another 
memorable performance was the Sam Gerridge of John 
Hare, his first appearance in London. And George 
Honey ! was there ever such an Eccles } Some thought 
it extravagant, and perhaps it was ; yet who, with a 
soul for humour, would have lost one touch of its vivid 
colours, who would have had its inimitable drollery less 
emphasised? It was the exaggeration of a Dickens, of 


a man thoroughly possessed by the relish of his own 
drollery, and communicating by its very intensity the 
relish to the spectators. But even above all this ex- 
cellence was the delicious Polly Eccles of Mrs. Bancroft, 
so saucy, so piguante, such a .blending of laughter and 
tears, in fine, so thoroughly human. Pages might be 
written in analysis of this mat chless perfor mance, but 
those who have seen it will be able to recall its every 
detail, and those who have not, well, words cannot paint 
it for them. Yet she tells us that she preferred Naomi 
Tighe. We do not think many will agree with her. 
Delightful as was Naomi Tighe, it was artificial, where- 
as Polly Eccles was the quintessence of nature. It was 
probably a surprise to old playgoers to hear that in 
length of run Caste stood as low as fifth, when compared 
to other plays produced at this theatre. Of Robertson's 
comedies, School ran the greatest^ number of nights, and 
Ours came s econd . Diplomacy a,nd Masks and Fcu^es 
both exceeded CotSte in longevity. 

A long run was made by Wilkie CoUins's Man and 
Wife^ founded upon his novel of that name, which ex- 
cited almost as much indignation in athletes, from the 
attack it made upon their order, as did Kipling's 
"flannelled fools" and "muddied oafs" not long ago. 
A gruesome piece. Coghlan was very fine in it 

It was in 1874 that Mr. Gilberts delightful little 
comedietta, Sweethearts, was produced; and it was as 
Jenny Northcote that Mrs. Bancroft's art was at its 
finest. It was the marvellous flow of animal spirits, 
the intense enjoyment of the actress in her own con- 
ception, which made the laughter as spontaneous as the 
tears that carried the audience away with Polly Eccles ; 
but a much higher art was revealed in the performance 
of Mr. Gilbert's heroine. Yet the ars celare artem, to 


use a horribly hackneyed phrase, was so perfect that 
every aspiring amateur thought she had only to ape 
the forward schoolgirl in the first act, and powder her 
hair and look lacrymose in the last to emulate Mrs. 
Bancroft ; in her stupid self-conceit she never thought of 
the flashes, the subtle touches revealing the love and 
tenderness that palpitated beneath the espitglerie of the 
wayward Jenny, the exquisite bits of business, that re- 
quired such delicacy in handling. Even finer was the 
last act ; the deep pathos that was veiled by that calm, 
placid face, the story of the blighted life that you read, 
not through any conventional stage emotion, but by the 
mere drooping of an eyelid, the least quiver of the lip, 
the faltering on a syllable were as perfect as anything the 
French stage could show. 

Poor Robertson's share in the triumphs of the Bancroft 
management was as brief as it was brilliant. Artistic- 
ally, however, his vein was exhausted ; he had done his 
work, he had swept away old conventionalities ; but had 
he written many more pieces he would have established 
affectations even more objectionable than those he had 
displaced. All the characters of the plays lived in 
the best of all possible worlds, in which the troubles of 
early years were for the happiness of later, tears were 
always dried up by the sunshine of smiles, and the 
curtain fell upon love and kisses. The teacup -and- 
saucer-trousers-pocket-school was very good in its way 
in the hands of its original exponents, but was carried to \ 
an absurd extent by their imitators, and to be quite 
inaudible and utterly inanimate were beginning to be 
considered the acme of good acting. A rude shock 
to the school was experienced when The Merchant of 
Venice was subjected to its cult, though we should all 
look leniently upon that error, since it first revealed to 
us the powers of Ellen Terry in the part of Portia. 


It is worthy of note that a more robust style of drama, 
such as Diplomacy, one of the most perfect performances 
given at the Prince of Wales's, Perils etc., followed the 
Robertson comedies. Money was the best acted of the 
Bancroft old comedy revivals ; Mrs. Bancroft s Lady 
Franklin was admirable, and Coghlan rendered that 
stilted sentimentalist Evelyn for the first time endur- 
able. The School for Scandal and Ma^ks and Fcu:es 
were admirably staged ; but the tone of the Prince of 
Wales's was essentially modern, there was no conviction 
about the powdered wigs and velvet coats; if the dresses 
were of the eighteenth century, the men and women were 
essentially of the nineteenth ; but, again, the highest 
praise must be accorded to Coghlan's Charles Surface; 
no actor within my memory has equalled him in 
Sheridan's gay hero. He was the full - blooded, port- 
wine drinking, boisterous young gentleman of the 
eighteenth century. 

The secret of the success of the Bancroft management 
was its practical, business-like conduct; the Bancrofts 
gathered about them the finest talent, compatible with 
their style of entertainment, and frequently contented 
themselves with subordinate parts in the interests of 
the piece. When they made a mistake they never failed 
not only frankly to acknowledge, but to retrieve it as 
quickly as possible, no matter at what cost. Everything 
they attempted in scenery, in costume, in acting was 
finished to the minutest detail. An evening at the 
Prince of Wales's was an artistic pleasure undisturbed 
by any jarring chord. 

The Bancroft management came to an end in 1879, 
and the theatre passed into the hands of Edgar Bruce. 
His first success was Genevieve Ward in Forget Me Not, 
a most powerful performance. This was followed by 


Bumand's Colonel, 1881, which was destined to exceed 
the longest of the Bancroft runs. Curious to relate, this 
piece was accepted and even put into rehearsal by the 
previous manager and then declined. The judgment, 
however, that so determined can scarcely be questioned, 
considering that The Colonel was but a new rendering of 
an old piece from a French original, The Seriotis Family, 
which had been a stock comedy at the Haymarket in 
Buckstone s days ; and who could have had sufficient 
forethought to foresee that the transference of the satire 
from sham piety to sham aesthetics would have so seized 
upon the public taste } Beerbohm Tree made his dibut 
as Lambert Streyke in this play. 

Although other pieces were produced by Mr. Bruce, 
with The Colonel all that is interesting in the history 
of the theatre terminates. A dispute between the 
lessees, Bancroft and James, and the tenant as to which 
of the three should be responsible for the alterations 
insisted upon by the Board of Works ended in closing 
the doors of the Prince of Wales s for ever as a 
theatre in 1882. And the old house, associated with so 
many delightful memories, became a Salvation Army 
barracks — to what base uses may we not return ! The 
last remains of the building have only just disappeared, 
and I understand that Mr. Frank Curzon intends to 
erect a new theatre upon the site. 


The Holbom Theatre (known also as the Mirror and the Duke's) — The 
Holborn Amphitheatre {alias the Connaught, the Alcazar, the Theatre 
Royal, Holbom)— The Queen's, Long Acre— The Globe— The Opera 
Comique— Toole's (The Charing Cross, The Folly). 

THE Utter stagnation into which theatrical specula- 
tion had fallen by the middle of the last century 
is testified by the circumstance that from 1841, when 
the Princess's was opened, until 1866 no new theatre 
was added to central London, and that several could 
not find tenants. 

The first person who ventured upon what had long 
been regarded as the forlornest of hopes — an addition 
to the number of our dramatic temples — was Mr. Sefton 
Parry, who, in 1866, erected a theatre upon the site of 
an old coach-yard and stables, and called it after the 
thoroughfare in which it was situated. The Holborn. 
It was opened in the October of that year with Flying 
Scud, a sporting drama, which, with a real horse and 
that fine actor George Belmore as the old jockey Nat 
Gosling, proved a hit. But it was a solitary one. 
When Mr. Parry retired from the management in 1868, 
it was undertaken by Miss Fanny Josephs ; and in the 
following season she gave place to Mr. Barry Sullivan, 
an actor of the old school, who, with Mrs. Hermann 
Vezin as his leading lady, played a round of the old- 
fashioned legitimate drama, such as The Gamester; but 



the abrupt closing of the theatre in the January of 1871 
told its own story. 

When, in 1875, Mr. Horace Wigan became lessee, 
the Holbom was renamed the Mirror. His brief 
tenancy was marked by one important production, All 
For Her, the first of the dramas founded upon the 
Sydney Carton episode (which Dickens had borrowed 
from Dumas). When John Clayton, who had hitherto 
been esteemed only an indifferently good actor, appeared 
in this play, a great future, as an exponent of the 
romantic drama, was predicted for him* It was the 
most picturesque and poetic performance that had been 
seen since Fechter's Ruy Bias. But All For Her, 
though moved from theatre to theatre, was never more 
than un succh d'estime, and curious to say, Clayton 
never made another hit in the romantic drama, unless it 
was as Osip in Les Danischeffs. Truly his ever-in- 
creasing obesity afterwards unfitted him for the heroic, 
yet it does not quite explain the why and the where- 
fore of the circumstance. 

After Horace Wigan the house was again re- 
christened, this time the Duke's Theatre. Many were 
its managers and as many were their disappointments. 
Messrs. Holt and Wilmot broke the spell of ill luck 
with Paul Merritts New Ballon in 1879. On June 
4th in the following year the Duke s was burned to 
the ground. A portion of the First Avenue Hotel now 
covers the site. 

An almost forgotten place of dramatic entertainment, 
which was first called the Amphitheatre. Holborn, and 
opened as a circus in 1868, and then converted into 
the Connaught Theatre, afterwards the Alcazar, and 
finally The Theatre Royal, Holborn, may be dismissed 
in a few sentences. It was John Hollingshead who 


Started it as a dramatic speculation in 1874, at cheap 
prices. Beginning with pantomime he leaped to Beau- 
mont and Fletcher s MaicPs Tragedy and other old- 
world plays, which were interpreted by one or two 
serious actors, and the rest from the Gaiety. Perhaps 
he intended it for a huge joke and did not mind paying 
for the fun. George Rignold played a short season 
here in a version of Adam Bede and other pieces. But 
it was a hopeless affair from the first, and about 1888 
W21S converted into a building called the Central Hall. 

On October 24th, 1867, St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre, 
having been reconstructed, was opened as The Queen's 
Theatre. Although Alfred Wigan's name appeared at 
the head of the bill, it was an open secret that the lessee 
was Mr. Labouchere. During its brief existence the 
Queen s took a very important position among London 
houses. The first piece produced upon its boards was 
an adaptation of Charles Readers White Lies, Mr. 
Liston, who afterwards took the Olympic, succeeded 
Wigan ; then came Ernest Clifton, under whom most of 
the most notable successes of the house were achieved. 
It was here that Mrs. Rousby made her London d6but 
in 1869 as Fiordelisa in the Foots Revenge ; and drew 
very large audiences in 'Twixt Axe and Crown^ and 
Joan of Arc. A beautiful face and the enthusiastic 
patronage of Tom Taylor, made for this actress one of 
those meretricious and transitory reputations which are 
common enough in stage annals ; though she might have 
held the public longer had not her own follies robbed 
her of its respejt. 

The Queen's could always boast of one of the finest 
companies in London. J. L. Toole and Lionel Brough 
were the stock comedians; and it was here, after his 
engagement at the St James's, that Henry Irving, in 


such plays as Dearer Than Life, The Lancashire Lass, 
firmly established himself as an actor of exceptional 
powers. Miss Nelly Moore and Miss Henrietta Hod- 
son, two inginues that even the French stage might 
have been proud of, were chiefly identified with this 
theatre ; John Ryder, Sam Emery, Mr. and Mrs. Frank 
Matthews, Hermann Vezin, Charles Wyndham were also 
at different times members of the company. Phelps 
played Bottom in a very fine revival of A Midsummer 
Nighfs Dream in 1870, and also appeared in one or two 
new plays. Cymbeline was produced in the following 
year ; there was also a revival of The Tempest ^ both for 
Henrietta Hodson. Some may remember the fiasco of 
The Last Days of Pompeii, which was so mercilessly 
burlesqued. And in 1872 George Rignold, a robust, 
picturesque actor of the Dillon school, who had he not 
gone away to Australia might have raised himself to a 
fine position on the London stage, made his mark in 
Watts Philips' Amos Clark, in which Miss Wallis first 
appeared. In the same year Colonel Richards s Crom- 
well, brought out as a counterblast to Charles I., offered 
Rignold another chance of distinguishing himself, as the 
Lord Protector. This was followed by Old London^ a 
new version oi Jack Sheppard, in which Miss Hodson 
played Jack. Here ended the Labouchere management, 
and for a time the tenants were various. 

The Queen's scored but few successes. The Turn of 
the Tide, a version of the old Victorian drama The 
Black Doctor, produced early in its life, and Mrs. 
Rousby's engagements being the chief. Under Mrs. 
Seymours direction, in 1873, Charles Reade's Wander- 
ing Heir was given, with Mrs. John Wood, and after- 
wards Ellen Terry, as the heroine. In 1875 Salvini, 
who came from Drury Lane, appeared here as Othello. 


One of the greatest pieces of tragic acting the world 
has ever seen, not only in overwhelming power, but in 
subtle art : it created a profound impression. Salvini 
also appeared as Macbeth, Hamlet, and while at Covent 
Garden, in 1884, King Lear; all were fine perform- 
ances, but none equalled Othello. By the perfection of 
its mechanical plant the house was admirably adapted 
for spectacular drama. After Drury Lane it was the 
largest theatre in the West End. It was converted into 
the Clerical Co-operative Stores in 1878, and was no 
more fortunate in business than it had been in art 

The Globe was erected by Sefton Parry upon a 
portion of the site of Lyon's Inn, an old Inn of Courts 
that dated back to the time of Henry VIII. But for 
many years previous to its demolition it had been the 
resort of shady characters.^ The Globe was opened 
in December, 1868, with one of H. J. Byron's best 
comedies, Cyril's Sitccess^ in which W. H. Vernon made 
his first bow to a London audience. Cyril's was the 
only success scored by Parry, and in 187 1 the Globe 
passed into the hands of Harry Montague, who, having 
disagreed with his partners at the Vaudeville about the 
importance given to burlesque, in which he did not 
play, seceded from the triumvirate. Montague was the 
women's darling, and the most fascinating actor of his 
time. He began at the St. James's under Webster. 
London managers did not care about engaging novices 
in the days of "Old Ben," but Montague was so per- 
severing that Webster said afterwards, " D n the 

fellow, I was obliged to give him an engagement to get 
rid of him!" 

* It acquired a notoriety at the beginning of the nineteenth century as 
having been the abode of William Weare, a turfite, who was murdered by 
his associates, Thurtell and Probert. 


His principal productions at the Globe were H. J. 
Byron's Partners for Life ; Albery's Forgiven ; Oriana ; 
Frank Marshall's False Shame; a revival of Douglas 
Jerrold's Time Works Wonders ; a dramatic version of 
Dombey and Son, with Sam Emery as Cap'n Cuttle, 
and Helen Barry as Mrs. Dombey. Montague had an 
excellent company, which included Haymarket Compton 
and Miss Carlotta Addison, then a charming juvenile 
lady ; but the theatre never paid, and he went away to . 
America, never to return. 

Edgar Bruce rented the Globe for a time, and 
brought from the Aquarium Theatre the adaptation of 
"Bleak House" called Jo, in which Miss Jennie Lee 
gave that powerful, wonderfully pathetic, and haunting 
performance of the street arab, that must ever linger 
in the memory of those who saw it. Edward Righton 
succeeded Bruce, and was fairly successful with revivals 
of Money^ She Stoops to Conquer, with Merritt's Stolen 
Kisses, the burlesque of My Poll and My Partner Joe, 
interpreted by Henry Neville, Righton, William Farren, 
John Ryder, Mrs. Chippendale, Mrs. John Wood. 

Comyns Carrs version of Far From the Madding ^ 
Crowd, April, 1882, with Mrs. Bernard Beere as Bath- 
sheba, will be remembered on account of the dispute 
between Mrs. Kendal, Mr. Pinero, and Mr. C. C, as to 
the originality of The Squire, which bore such a re- 
markable resemblance to Mr. Hardy's famous novel. 
But whatever might have been the rights of the case, 
the St. James's play was an overwhelming success, and 
the Globe's was a failure. After the production of 
Sydney Grundy's comic opera. The Vicar of Bray, 
Mrs. Bernard Beere became manageress, and made a 
fiasco with Tennyson's The Promise of May, November, 
1882. The second night was rendered remarkable 


by the late Marquis of Queensberry, of prize-ring 
celebrity, rising up in the stalls to proclaim himself an 
agnostic and denounce the poet's type of that cult, as 
embodied in the character of Edgar. A dramatic 
version of Jane Eyre, by G. W. Wills, with Charles 
Kelly as Rochester and Mrs. Beere as the heroine, was 
scarcely more fortunate. In 1884 we find the names 
of John HoUingshead and J. L. Shine at the top of the 
bill ; but a year later Charles Hawtrey took their place 
with The Private Secretary^ brought from the Prince's 
with its third and most successful Rev. Robert Spalding, 
Mr. Penley. A failure at its birthplace, it here became 
one of the greatest successes of the century. 

Very few theatres so frequently changed hands and 
styles of entertainment as the Globe. Richard Mans- 
field, the American actor, whom we have met at the 
Lyceum, produced Richard III. on a magnificent scale 
in 1889, and was very wroth with the British Press and 
public because he shared the same fate with so many 
of his predecessors. In the following year Mr. F. R. 
Benson commenced his first London season with a 
beautiful revival of The Midsummer Night's Dream^ 
in which the now famous dramatic poet, Mr. Stephen 
Phillips, played the small part of Flute, the bellows- 

Norman Forbes was the lessee in 1891, but quickly 
retired, a poorer if not a wiser man. One of the most 
charming of comic operas. Ma Mie Rosette, with that 
delightful singer, Eugene Oudin, as Henry IV., was 
brought out here in 1892. And early in the next year 
Charley s Aunt, transferred from the Royalty, com- 
menced- its record-breaking run of four years. Translated 
into French, it was played five hundred nights at the 
Theatre de Cluny. In the English provinces the 



success of this mediocre farce was and is equally phe- 
nomenal. Yet another man-in-petticoats piece, Miss 
Frances of Yale, with Grossmith, in 1897, failed to 
attract the laughter-loving public. 

Lewis Waller brought out his version of The Three 
Musketeers here in 1898 ; and John Hare, in the same 
year, gave us E. V. Esmond's A Bachelors Romance, 
revivals of several of Tom Robertson's comedies, and 
best of all, Pinero's The Gay Lord Quex, 1899. I do 
not know of a finer piece of dramatic work in the whole 
range of comedy than the second act of this play. No 
scene ever more gripped an audience in breathless 
suspense, or evoked a wilder burst of applause at the 
end, than the duel between Sophie — so splendidly played 
by Miss Irene Vanbrugh — and my lord. The way in 
which the natural vulgarity of the ex-lady s-maid broke 
through the genteel veneer of the manicurist, the alter- 
nations of bully, triumph, entreaty, the tenacity of her 
fidelity to the woman for whose cause she was fighting, 
and her final burst of admiration for the magnanimous 
foe who yielded at discretion, was most perfect acting. 

Wilson Barrett made some successes here, and a 
very remarkable one was achieved by Miss Julia Neil- 
son in Sweet Nell of Old Drury, 1901, originally played 
at the Haymarket, an extraordinary perversion of his- 
tory, in which the saucy orange-girl, whose coarseness of 
speech and manner is historical, is transformed into a 
sentimental philanthropist, who might at the present day 
be the pet of an evangelical parson. But the multitude 
flocked to see the whitewashing of Nell, so nimporte. 
•And with a revival of this drama on the 22nd March, 
1902, the doors of the Globe Theatre finally closed. It 
was a jerry-built house, run up with a view to the long- 
deferred Strand improvement. If a fire had broken out 


it would have burned like a match-box. It is curious that 
those guardians of the public safety, the County Council, 
who are so severely conscientious where other managers 
are in question, should have been unaware of this fact 
and have continued to let it without alterations. It held 
about I, coo people at a money value of £210. • 

The Opera Comique, like the Globe, was erected 
upon the Lyon's Inn site, and was opened in October, 
1870. It was at that time one of the most artistically 
decorated theatres in London. But its scattered en- 
trances in three thoroughfares, interminable passages, 
and draughty stalls, that threatened every visitor with 
neuralgia and catarrh, and the '* outlandish " name, 
heavily handicapped it from the first. 

The opening season was an utter fiasco. But in the 
next it was fortunate enough to secure the company of 
the Comddie Fran^aise, which, driven from its home by 
the German invasion, performed for the first time in its 
history out of Paris. Madame Ristori, after a long 
absence from this country, played an engagement here 
in 1873, appearing as Marie Antoinette, Lucrezia 
Borgia, and in the sleep-walking scene of Lady Macbeth 
— ^a wonderful piece of acting that realised all the Siddons 

It was at this house that the Gilbert and Sullivan 
combination practically commenced-^-though the Trial 
by Jury first saw the footlights at the Royalty in 1875 
— in November, 1878, with The Sorcerer, one of the 
best of the long series of comic operas that delighted 
the English public for a score of years. I can see little 
Grossmith now hopping round the fire like a frog in the 
creepy-droll incantation scene. Lady Sangaziire was 
played by Mrs. Howard Paul, her last appearance upon 
the stage. H,M.S. Pinafore came next with its breezy 


humour and catching melodies ; The Pirates of Penzance^ 
and everybody was singing the policemen's chorus ; then 
Patience^ a delightful piece of work. And what artistic- 
ally finished performances they were; every performer 
was so perfectly fitted and trained — Grossmith, Temple, 
Jessie Bond, Leonora Braham, Miss Everard, Rutland 
Barrington, Alice Bamett ! 

When, in 1881, D'Oyley Carte removed the company 
to his new theatre, he certainly carried away with him 
the luck and prestige of the Opera Comique. Musical 
pieces in imitation of the Gilbert and Sullivan school, 
French comic operas were tried with indifferent success. 
Lotta, one of the most famous of American conUdiennes, 
who is said to be a millionaire, appeared here in the 
double r6le of Little Nell and the Marchioness, and 
other parts, but failed to attract. 
• Mrs. Bernard Beere conducted the season of 1887-8, 
and created a great impression as Lena Despard in As in 
a Looking'GlasSy breaking a lance, many thought, with 
the divine Sarah herself in the terrible death scene. 
Arthur Roberts made a success here with a burlesque 
on Joan of Arc in 189 1. In the next year there was a 
season of French plays. David James was ** sole lessee " 
for a time; Compton tried legitimate comedy; Willie 
Edouin was manager for a while. Just before their 
departure for Australia (1893), the Dacres opened the 
theatre for a few weeks. Nellie Farren took the house 
to bring out a burlesque upon Trilby^ but Arthur Roberts 
had anticipated her elsewhere, and the venture failed, 
as had most of the others. Alice in Wonderland^ 1898, 
and a drama by Simms, A Good Time^ April, 1899, were 
the last productions before the house wis finally closed 
for demolition. 

Toole's Theatre, now covered by the new buildings of 


the Charing Cross Hospital, was developed out of the 
Polygraphia Hall, which was chiefly remarkable for the 
monologue entertainment " My Carpet Bag," given by 
Woodin, one of the numerous imitators of the elder 
Mathews. The Hall was converted into a tiny playhouse 
in 1869, and christened the Charing Cross Theatre. 
But it held no position until it came into the hands of 
J. S. Clarke, of Major Wellington de Boots fame, in 
1872. His most notable production was The Rivals^ in 
which Mrs. Stirling gave her splendid performance of 
Mrs. Malaprop for the first time, and Clarke appeared 
as Bob Acres, a very humorous and clever piece of 
acting, but not '* fighting Bob." 

When Mr. Alexander Henderson took the house in 
1876, he rechristened it the Folly, and his wife, charming 
Lydia Thompson, was the great attraction in burlesque. 
In 1878 a phenomenal success was achieved with Les 
Cloches de Comeville, in which Miss Violet Cameron 
made her first hit as Germaine, and Shiel Barry gave a 
performance of Caspar, the Miser, such as had not been 
seen since Robson's Daddy Hardacre. 

J. L. Toole undertook the management in November, 
1879. Pineros first comedy Imprudence was brought 
out here in 1881, and a second. Boys and Girls ^ in the 
next year ; both were failures. The author was too un- 
conventional for the audiences of that time, and his 
originality, it must be added, was crude and ill-digested, 
being in the process of crystallisation. H. J. Byron's 
The Upper Crusty and others by the same author, and 
burlesques on popular plays, such as Stage-Dora and 
Paw Claudian, or The Roman Awry, in which that 
bright clever actress Marie Linden gave her delightful 
imitations, were much more successful. 

In 1882 Mr. Toole initiated the objectionable 


American practice of calling the theatre after his own 
name, and so it was thenceforth known as " Toole's." 
The Daly Company made their first appearance here in 
1884. The theatre was let to various companies and 
managers during the frequent absence of the lessee, but 
during the rest of its existence there is little that calls 
for notice, 

J. M. Barries first play, Walker y London^ was pro- 
duced in 1892, and enjoyed a long run. The house 
was considerably enlarged, though after the alterations it 
could not seat more than 900, and improved by the 
genial comedian, who has unfortunately been lost to the 
laughter-loving public for so long a time through a 
prostrating illness. His last production was Thorough- 
bred in February, 1895, and the theatre, which was not 
very prosperous in its last years, having been acquired 
for the extension of Charing Cross Hospital, was closed 
in the spring of that year. 


The old Gaiety— The Alhambra— The Empire— The (New) English Opera 
•House — The Sans Souci, etc. 

THE old Gaiety was constructed out of the Strand 
Music Hall, which had proved a failure in the 
days when the music-hall was not so much in favour as 
it is at present, by the late Mr. Lionel Lawson of The 
Daily Telegraph. It was opened on December 21st, 
1868, with an adaptation from the French, . On the 
Cards, Alfred Wigan playing the leading part, and a 
burlesque on Robert the DevUy with the Daubans, 
Nelly Farren, who came from the Olympic, and Fanny 
Josephs, as the chief attractions. Thirty years ago 
and much more recently, a burlesque was considered 
by most theatres in town and country to be an in- 
dispensable wind-up to the evenings entertainment 
The Gaiety from the first produced burlesque upon a 
moretlavish scale than any of its rivals. 

But in its earlier days "the sacred lamp" was not 
always alight. A romantic play entitled Dreams^ by 
Tom Robertson, was brought out in 1869. Mr. and 
Mrs. Charles Mathews appeared in 1873 in Married 
for Money, and at the end of the same year Phelps, 
Toole, Charles Mathews, Hermann Vezin, acted to- 
gether in John Bull, a combination that drew all 
theatrical London. Phelps also appeared in several of 
his celebrated comedy r61es. 



Toole began a career of some years in H. J. Byron s 
Uncle Dicks Darling. Irving played Chevenix, and 
very much impressed Charles Dickens by his acting. 
"That young man will be a great actor," was his 
prophecy. Another hit of Irving's at this theatre was 
Bob Gasset in Dearer than Life. Adelaide Neilson 
was in both pieces. 

Madame Angot represented opera-bouffe here, and 
Zampa^ with Santley in the title-r61e, serious opera. 
French companies played here every season from 1874, 
and it was on this stage that Sarah Bernhardt made 
her first appearance before the English public with the 
company of the Com^die Fran^aise on their second 
visit to England in 1879. There was an immense rush 
to see the actress, whose fame had preceded her; 
every seat was taken, and crowds nightly and daily 
besieged the doors of pit and gallery. 

The greatest house was on the night she played 
Donna Sol in Hemani — ;^57i. She also created a 
profound impression in Ph^dre. 

I have always thought that from a purely Artistic 
point of view, she has never acted so finely as in com- 
bination with artistes who could claim something like 
equality with the diva in their own line of art She 
was then the central figure of a great picture, in 
harmony with all the subordinate parts; since then 
she has too frequently made the mistake of surrounding 
herself with mediocrities; which destroys the sense of 
proportion ; she has studied only her own effects, with- 
out relation to the whole, and has developed strong 
mannerisms, the constant repetition of which often 
fatigues the ear. For several years she appeared in 
London only at this theatre. 

When the Gaiety opened for the season, in December, 


1878, the manager informed his patrons that during 
the ten years of its existence the theatre had been 
closed only ten weeks, and as a balance against that 
interval there had been morning performances equal to 
one year and three months. It was Mr. Hollingshead 
who first abolished the infamous system of fees, which, 
however, has come into force again under managers 
who ought to blush for countenancing such extortion. 
What would a man say to be charged sixpence at an 
hotel for the menu of the dinner he sat. down to eat } 
Not but what some of the blame is due to the public, 
who would persist in tipping the attendants in spite of 
all notices against the usage. Another institution 
initiated by John Hollingshead, the matinde, for the 
production of untried plays, proved a plague to dramatic 
critics, who had to sit stewing on hot summer afternoons 
to witness inanities that were never heard of again. 
This is a thing of the past, and afternoon performances, 
as at present understood, are a great boon to the 
dwellers in suburbia. 

Between whiles old comedies and dramas were given — 
Congreve's Love for Love, Sheridan's A Trip to Scar- 
borough, The Critic, George Barnwell, The Castle 
Spectre — to exemplify Hollingshead's theory that the 
old drama was very inferior to the modern ; and played 
as it was by actors in up-to-date style, with their tongues 
in their cheeks, he had no difficulty in communicating 
his faith to a Gaiety audience. . Charles Mathews played 
most of his later engagements at the Gaiety, and there 
created his last famous character, Mr. Councillor Punch, 
in My Awful Dad, 1875. H. J. Byron was also 
closely identified with the house both as actor and 
author. As the years passed on, burlesque became 
more and more absolute on those boards. But the 


Gaiety school never equalled that of the Strand ; it was 
coarser, less artistic, too much to please "the boys." 
Yet its record bears a good array of names — Toole, 
Edward Terry, Tom Thorne, Kate Vaughan, Edward 
Royce, Lonnen, and, greatest of all, Nelly Farren and 
Fred Leslie. 

Miss Farren, who had been principal burlesque actress 
at the Olympic, was on the staff of the Gaiety from the 
opening night ; for a time, however, she played seconds 
to Patty Josephs, but not for long. I remember her and 
Toole in The Princess of Trebizonde, in the early days ; 
how piqttante and droll they were. She played a 
number of comedy parts in the seventies and early 
eighties — Miss Prue in Love for Love, Miss Hoyden in 
The Man of Qtmlity, Clemency Newcombe in The 
Battle of Life, Nan in Good for Nothing. How 
delightful she was in The Grasshopper, Carmen Up 
to Data, Little Faust, Little Don Ccesar, Babes in the 
Wood, and how many more ! Nellie Farren was much 
more than a mere burlesque actress ; there were flashes 
of passion and intensity, especially in her street arabs, 
that thrilled with true tragic power. But what she is 
chiefly remembered by are her wild spirits, her audacity, 
her verve, her "go." In Fred Leslie, who joined the 
company in 1885, she had an alter ego. Never was 
buffoonery carried to such an excess upon the dramatic 
stage as by those two in Monte Cristo, Ruy Bias, and 
especially between Little Jack Sheppard and Blueskin. 
But the fun was so real, so apparently spontaneous, 
so thoroughly enjoyed by the buffoons themselves, that 
it was irresistible. It was during the run of Cinder- 
Ellen, in 1892, that poor "Nellie" was struck down 
by rheumatism, brought on, it is said, by damp tights ; 
in order to make the silk fit close to her limbs, she 


was in the habit of first dipping them in water. And 
Leslie did not long survive his co-mate. The Gaiety 
never replaced them as artistes. There was always 
that note of intensity in Leslie's acting, without which 
burlesque is tomfoolery; witness his "looking-glass" 
song in Cinder-Ellen, what a touch of quite tearful 
pathos there was in the old man lamenting the loss 
of his youth. 

It was about 1881, with Burnand's Whittington and 
His Cat, I think, that Hollingshead instituted that 
dreary thing, the three-act "burlesque drama." But it 
extended on into Mr. George Edwardes's management, 
until early in the nineties, when was introduced the 
American variety show, called musical comedy. 

Nat Goodwin appeared in the off season of 1900, but 
gradually the new departure has monopolised the stage, 
each specimen usually for a couple of years. An end- 
less line of *' Girls" has been varied by one ** Boy," all 
so much alike that it would puzzle most of the audience 
to differentiate them. Costly dresses, beautiful scenery, 
and lively song and dance, however, made the Gaiety 
the best paying house in London. 

It is a very significant commentary upon English 
dramatic art, that while the classic Lyceum, with its 
splendid intellectual memories, closed its doors almost 
unnoticed, the great Temple of Nonsense ended its 
career in July with an 6clat unparalleled in the history 
of the stage. Enormous prices, perhaps the highest 
ever given, were paid for all the reserved seats, and 
a very distinguished audience came to do honour to the 
occasion. That every old Gaiety actor available should 
appear upon the stage that night to awaken memories 
of the past was a matter of course, and Sir Henry Irving 
gave a dignity to the occasion by delivering a farewell 


address. The Toreador, which had had a very long 
ruH, was the last piece played upon the old Gaiety 

There is something melancholy in the disappearance 
of so many of our old haunts wherein many of us have 
spent such delightful hours of our lives, haunts which 
have echoed to the voices of men and women whose 
names were once household words, most of whom have 
passed away into '^ that undiscovered country from whose 
bourne no traveller returns." Even the very site of 
the buildings will very soon be obliterated, and a future 
generation will be as indefinite about the situation of 
the Olympic, or Lyceum, or the Globe or the old 
Gaiety, as we are concerning the spots upon which the 
Shakespearian theatres stood. 

It was in 1871 that The Alhambra was converted 
from a music-hall into a theatre. This building had 
undei^one several transformations. When erected in 
1854 it was called the Panopticon of Science and Art, 
and was opened as a joint-stock undertaking by certain 
enthusiasts who were desirous of imparting scientific 
truths in a popular and amusing form, after the old 
Polytechnic mode. After about three years it was closed, 
and in 1858 the ubiquitous E. T. Smith took it on lease, 
and renaming it the Alhambra from its Moorish style of 
architecture, opened it as a place of general entertain- 
ment for horse-riding, panoramas, athletics, etc. Both 
the exterior and interior of the building remained un- 
altered. In December, i860, it underwent another 
change, a stage was erected, and it was converted into a 
regular music-hall. After a while it became noted for 
its ballets; but it did not excite very much attention, 
except as a favourite resort of very fast young men, 
until the period of the Franco-German War, when the 


singing of the " Marseillaise " and the " Wacht um 
Rhein " on the same night roused the national rivalrifes, 
not only of the French and Germans, but of their 
English partisans as well, to fever heat. The Alhambra 
was crowded nightly by people who came to hiss and 
applaud and by those who rushed to enjoy the fun. 
While the excitement lasted the house was a gold mine. 
In 1 87 1 Mr. John Baum, the then lessee, obtained a 
theatrical licence With a good opera-bouffe company, 
ballets superbly mounted, and the best ballet dancers in 
London, which could always be procured by paying 
larger salaries than the theatres and giving permanent 
employment, with an excellent band far exceeding in 
number that of any one of the more legitimate houses, 
it might have been thought that the Alhambra would 
certainly pay ; so it did for a time, but the hxibittUs 
missed the lounge, the smoking and drinking, and its 
previous reputation caused the more prim portion of the 
public to look askance upon it. Several well-known 
opera-bouffes were produced here and very elaborately 
mounted, notably Le Rot Carotte and the Black Crook, 
Burned to the ground at the end of the year 1882, it 
was rebuilt and reopened as a theatre with a revival 
of Burnand's burlesque of Black-Eyed Susan^ in Decem- 
ber, 1883. So direful, however, was the failure of the 
dramatic entertainment this time that the proprietors 
closed the house, and in the next year, under the old 
licence for music and dancing, reopened it as a music- 

The Empire, originally called the Alcazar, built upon 
the site of Saville House, notorious in the forties for 
the exhibition of Madame Warton's Poses Plastiques, 
was opened at the end of 1883 with a very superbly 
staged version of Chilpdric^ and with what was then 


a novel employment of electricity, incandescent lights 
breaking out upon the breastplates and helmets of the 
ballet It was the first time such an effect, which has 
since become quite common, was attempted. In July, 
1884, John Hollingshead brought the Gaiety company 
here with the burlesque of The Forty Thieves. In the 
next year Hayden Coffin and J. L. Shine appeared in a 
comic opera. The Lady of the Locket. In 1886 a version 
of Jules Verne's and D'Ennery's Round the World in 
Eighty Days was splendidly mounted here under the 
direction of Marius, with Charles Cartwright, CoUette, 
Kate Vaughan ; and another elaborate spectacle, The 
Palace of Pearl, was produced. Not long afterwards, 
1 887, the dramatic was abandoned for the variety show. 

Expectation was on tiptoe when, in the first week of 
February, 1891, D'Oyly Carte opened his magnificent new 
theatre, with its marble vestibule and staircase and splen- 
did decorations, in Cambridge Circus as The English 
Opera House, with Arthur Sullivan's grand opera Ivan- 
hoe. The supposition, however, that an opera could be 
forced -into a long run like a drama was one of those 
absurd calculations which experts so often make. Soon 
came the fiasco. There was not another English opera 
ready, and the house that was built for the purpose of 
exploiting national music had to fall back for its second 
work on La Basoche ! 

Sarah Bernhardt appeared as Cleopatra here in 1892. 
D'Oyly Carte turned the theatre into a company, who 
converted it into a variety show, but for a long time it 
was a terrible muddle. 

Even when the company was placed under the 
management of Augustus Harris, the muddle was quite 
as bad. I shall never forget the first night of the new 
entertainment, the mixture of variety turns and melo- 


drama ; poor William Rignbld as a brave British officer 
killing his wife to save her from the sepoys. The enter- 
tainment struggled on long after midnight, amid the 
jeers and hostile demonstrations of the audience. Noth- 
ing prospered at the house until Mr. Morton, who^I 
verily believe would make a theatre pay on the top of a 
Dartmoor tor, undertook the management. From that 
time the Palace Theatre has been one of the best 
paying of the variety shows. 

There still remain a few more extinct West End 
theatres, now quite forgotten, to be mentioned, to render 
my list complete. 

At the end of the eighteenth century, Charles Dibdin 
fitted up a little theatre at the corner of Leicester Place 
— the post office now occupies the site — for his entertain- 
ment of songs and sketches, which he called The Sans 
Souci. Edmund Kean, when a boy, appeared here in 
some acrobatic performances. After Dibdin s time it 
was used more by amateurs than professionals, except 
for benefits. ** Baron" Nicholson, in his memoirs, 1820, 
calls it "an ele gant j ittle theatre," but it was too small 
for any effective representations. In 1832 it was 
opened by subscription for vaudevilles. Two years 
afterwards a French company occupied it. After that 
it was closed. 

From 1 8 19 to 1823 The Argyll Rooms, Regent Street, 
was fitted up for French plays, under the patronage of 
the aristocracy. These were given by subscription 
every Friday from March to September. The perfor- 
mance commenced at nine and terminated at twelve ; 
after which the company adjourned to the ballroom to 


finish up the night's amusement with dancing. This, 
however, was a private theatre, as only subscribers were 

In 1832 a theatre was opened in Windmill Street, 
Haymarket, and called The Albion, a name which, three 
years afterwards, was changed to the New Queen's. 
Its entire existence extended over only four years. The 
famous tragedy actress, Sally Booth, performed here, 
though its ordinary programme was very pronounced 

In the same year (1832) an undertaker named Gale, 
of York Street, Westminster, erected upon a plot of 
ground he owned (for which it may be presumed he could 
find no other purpose) The Westminster Theatre. 
It stood just about the spot on which is now the stage 
entrance of the Imperial. Its first manager was T. D. 
Davenport, who is generally believed to have been the 
original of Dickens s Crummies. Dibdin Pitt and John 
Douglass were his successors, and several actors who 
afterwards won a name for themselves, William Davidge, 
Joseph Rayner, and Munyard, appeared here. The 
Westminster Theatre never obtained a licence, and was 
in existence only about four years. 

Between 1834 and 1840 there was a theatre in High 
Street, Kensington, called The Royal Kent ; but it was 
a mere box, and would hold only about two hundred and 
fifty persons. Nevertheless, it had ** a royal entrance " 
down a back court Brown, a well-known light comedian, 
Wynne, an actor of some repute, the brother of Augustus 
Sala, frequently mentioned in the memoirs of the latter, 
and Denvil, the original representative of Manfred, were, 
at one time, among the company. Indeed, it was from 
here that Bunn engaged Denvil for Drury Lane, to play 
the part of Byron's melancholy hero. 


For a few months, during 1841, there was a theatre 
opened at the back of the Colisseum, Regent s Park, and 
called the Colisseum Theatre, Albany Street Tully* 
the well-known composer and conductor, figured there as 
a comedian. 

PART ly 




Sadler's Wells (the oldest theatre in London); a curious history — The 
Grecian— The Albert Saloon— The Britannia— The Variety, Hoxton— 
Highbury Bam— The Park Theatre— The King's Cross— The New 

ALTHOU<iH most of the old Northern, Southern, 
L and East End theatres are. extinct, or have fallen 
too low for consideration, it is not so long ago since they 
were important factors of theatrical London. But affairs 
theatrical have been utterly revolutionised during the 
last fifteen or twenty years. Formerly each of these 
district theatres had its own particular audience, that 
seldom attended any other; now, thanks to cheap 
conveyances, such audiences are ubiquitous. Again, 
the local music-halls have drawn away the old gallery 
frequenters and many of the pittites, while genteel 
respectability either go to the West End or to the hand- 
some new suburban houses, where they can see all the 
West End pieces, and sometimes with the original castes. 
Until 1843 all theatres, except Drury Lane, Covent 
Garden, and the Haymarket, were alike called minor 
theatres, and little or no distinction, except from the 
accident of situation, was made between those of White- 
chapel and those of the Strand. The same authors 
wrote the same kind of piece for the Adelphi, the English 
Opera House and Olympic, as for the Victoria, the 



Surrey, and the City of London. Edward Stirling, 
Leman Rede, Fitzball, Mark Lemon, John Oxenford, 
and Douglas Jerrold wrote for all. 

But there was another class of writers which was 
especially attached to these houses, and, after the new 
Licensing Act, became responsible for the entire repertory 
— Egerton Wilks, Edwin Travers, George Almar, Dibdin 
Pitt, Charles Hazelwood, and many others. The plays 
of these men, though destitute of literary merit, were 
usually cleverly constructed, with an exciting plot, and 
plenty of strong situations. The writers were invariably 
actors, and for a salary of two pounds ten, or three 
pounds, played parts, and wrote a play a week. The 
London Journal, and such-like publications, were largely . 
laid under contribution ; originality could scarcely be^ 
expected at the price. 

Although, on the broad lines, all East End dramas of 
this latter period were pretty much alike in their violent 
and exaggerated contrasts between vice and virtue — for 
the playgoers of Whitechapel, Shoreditch, and Hoxton 
did not care for fine-drawn distinctions or "paltering in 
a double sense " between the angels of light and dark- 
ness — each house had a style of its own. As an instance, 
Norton Folgate liked a strong flavour of romance, and 
did not object to the supernatural — indeed some of the 
best work of this kind was given to the City of London. 
The Britannia had a preference for the purely domestic ; 
the village maiden pursued by the libidinous Squire, in 
sticking-plaster boots, but always preserved by the 
serious countryman who spouted sermons by the yard, 
or by the comic chambermaid — as the manageress, Mrs. 
Lane always chose those parts — who with an umbrella 
could put as many ruffians hors de combat as a Surrey 
sailor^could with a quid of tobacco. 


The hatred of aristocrats was even more pronounced, 
perhaps, at the Pavilion and the Effingham, where every 
actor who appeared in a black coat, a silk hat, and 
white Berlin gloves was at once recognised to be a 
villain, while rags always covered an honest heart, even 
though it might be associated with a damaged reputa- 
tion. The last-named theatres, being largely supported 
by the Jews, usually contrived to introduce a Hebrew 
into the pieces ; he was always a model of every 
Christian virtue, who held forth eloquently upon the 
wrongs of his race, and was usually the good genius 
of the play. Not that any house restricted itself within 
hard-and-fast lines ; romance and ghosts were no more 
eschewed by the Britannia than were the lovely work- 
girls persecuted by libertine lords, and afterwards 
married to dukes, by the City or the Pavilion. The 
plots of all were very much alike ; there were not 
more than a dozen chords to the whole gamut. As 
these dramas were written for the uneducated, it followed 
as a matter of course that the language was of the most 
superfine description ; in many, however, dialogue was 
a matter altogether of secondary importance, every half- 
dozen sentences being followed by action or situation, 
which succeeded one another with an ingenuity of in- 
vention that is really surprising. 

At the southern theatres was preached the gospel of 
rags and 'orny-'anded virtue, especially at the ** Vic," but 
from the days of Black-Eyed Susan until within the last 
twenty years nautical dramas were first favourites with 
the Surreyites.^ The virtuous sailor fought terrific 
combats with half a dozen "lubbers," the agnomen he 
bestowed upon all landsmen, with a short basket-hilted 

^ Sadler's Wells was the first of the nautical drama theatres, for reasons 
which will appear further on. 
2 A 


sword, two or three times in the course of the perform- 
ance; while at Astley's it was *^the fiery, untamed 
steed," usually a mild quadruped that would not have 
trampled upon a worm, and fierce Tartar khans and 
Indian moguls, with an insatiable appetite for slaughter, 
that were the great attraction. 

The actors who interpreted these dramas were of 
course equally in accordance with the tastes of the 
audience. These suburban minor theatres arose at a 
time when the histrionic art was a mere bundle of 
traditions and conventionalities. Edmund Kean was 
the model usually affected by the tragedians, and they 
imitated him by ranting and roaring without inter- 
mission. Yet many of them possessed considerable real 
dramatic power, such as N. T. Hicks, Charles Freer, 
Bengough, Cobham. And there was not such a great 
difference between their style and that which obtained 
in the Strand ; the colours were laid on more heavily, 
but the actors were scarcely distorted reflections of their 
West End types. Three actresses, mostly associated 
with the East End — Mrs. Honner, Mrs. Yamold, and 
Miss Vincent — though a little more emphatic, might 
have stood beside Mrs. Yates or Mrs. Stirling; while 
Mrs. Lane, at the Britannia, could have held her own in 
broad comedy against Mrs. Fitzwilliam. As the West 
End minor houses, however, took a higher position, the 
acting became more and more refined and natural, while 
that of the outsiders descended to mediocrity, and the 
manner grew more and more stilted and inflated. 

No burlesque actor could possibly exaggerate the 
peculiarities of the old " transpontine " or ** East Ender"; 
his walk, every motion of his arms, and every syllable 
he enunciated were the quintessence of burlesque, so 
absurdly grandiose, so utterly unlike anything human 


that it would be very difficult to persuade the present 
generation that anything so innately ludicrous could ever 
have been taken seriously or witnessed without roars of 
laughter. It is only within the last thirty or forty years 
that this style began to die out, and it has now quite 

The prices of admission to these theatres usually 
ranged from 3^. or ^d. to the gallery, 6d. to pit, and 
i^. (id. to boxes ; the highest price did not exceed 2s. 6d. 
But the houses were very much larger, especially in the 
cheap parts, than those of the West, and could be more 
tightly packed. 

The oldest and most interesting of all the outlying 
theatres of London is Sadler's Wells. In the year 
1684, while some workmen were digging gravel in the 
grounds of Mr. Sadler, a surveyor of highways, at 
Clerkenwell, they struck, at some distance below the 
surface, upon a flagstone, which, upon being raised, 
disclosed a well. This was very soon identified as one 
that had belonged to the Priory of Clerkenwell, and in 
the Middle Ages had been accredited with miraculous 
powers. It was just about the time that inland springs 
were coming into vogue, and chalybeate waters were 
acquiring the reputation of being a golden specific for 
all complaints. In a very litde time hypochondriacs and 
valetudinarians were flocking to Mr. Sadler s gardens, 
until the average number of daily drinkers at this new 
fountain of life amounted to five or six hundred. The 
proprietor enclosed the gardens, planted them with 
shrubs, had a marble basin formed for the spring to rise 
into, engaged a lady to discourse sweet sounds on the 
dulcimer in an artificial glen, from five to eight on 
summer evenings; while, in a shell-work grotto, a man 
played the pipe and tabor for those who loved to dance. 


During the last years of the Commonwealth, the stage 
being still under the ban of Puritanism, places of amuse- 
ment, called ** Musick Houses/* were opened in different 
parts of the metropolis, and gave a miscellaneous enter- 
tainment of singing, dancing, tumbling, much after the 
style of the modern music-hall. To add to the other 
attractions of the Wells, Sadler, in partnership with 
a dancing - master named Forcer, erected a wooden 
"Musick House " in his grounds ; a platform at one end 
served as a stage, and a bench on each side accom- 
modated the musicians ; there was no separate charge for 
admission, which was the privilege of those who took 
refreshments at the bar. Ned Ward, the author of The 
London Spy, in his Walk to Islington^ gives us such a 
vivid picture of the humours of the " Musick House " in 
1699, and of the company that frequented it, that I cannot 
do better than quote as much of his description as the 
modern reader would find palatable. He and a female 
companion, being out for a stroll in the Clerkenwell 
fields, make their way to Sadler's Wells. 

"We entered the house, were conducted upstairs. 
There lovers o'er cheesecakes were seated by pairs. 
The organs and fiddles were scraping and humming, 
The guests for more ale on the tables were drumming ; 
Whilst others, ill-bred, lolling over their mugs. 
Were laughing and toying with their fans and their jugs, 
Disdain'd to be slaves to perfections, or graces, 
Sat pufi^g tobacco in their mistresses' faces. 
Some 'prentices, too, who made a bold venture. 
And trespass'd a little beyond their indenture. 
Were each of them treating his mistress's maid, 
For letting him in when his master's abed." 

Having refreshed, they 

" Look'd over the gallery like the rest of the folk, 
Without side of which, the spectators to please, 
Were nymphs painted roving in clouds and in seas. 


Our eyes being glutted with this pretty sight, 
We began to look down and examine the pit, 
Where butchers and bailiffs and such sort of fellows 
Were mix'd with a vermin train'd up to the gallows, 
As buttocks and files, housebreakers and padders, 
With prizefighters, sweeteners, and such sort of traders, 
Informers, thief-takers, deer stealers, and bullies ; 
Some dancing, some skipping, some ranting and tearing, 
Some drinking and smoking, some lying and swearing, 
And some with the tapsters were got in a fray, 
Who without paying reck'ning were stealing away." 

" Lady Squab," now by the side of the organ, favours 
the company with a song, at which 

" The guests were all hush, and attention was given. 
The listening mob thought themselves in a Heaven." 

After she retires amidst vociferous applause from the 

" Then up starts a fiddler in scarlet, so fierce. 
So unlike an Orpheus, he looks like a Mars, 
He runs up in Alt with a hey-diddle-diddle. 
To show what a fool he could make of a fiddle." 

When this is over, a girl of eleven comes on and 
executes a sword-dance. 

" Arm'd Amazon-like, with abundance of rapiers. 
Which she puts to her throat as she dances and capers. 
And further, the mob's admiration to kindle, 
She turns on her heel like a wheel on a spindle." 

Next appears 

"A young babe of grace. 
With Mercery's limbs, and a gallows in his face. 
In dancing a jig lies the chief of his graces, 
And making strange Musick House monkey-like faces." 

He again is followed by Thomas, the waiter, who, 
dressed as a clown, performs a dance, etc., etc. 

The whole neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, though at 


this period nearly surrounded by open country, was 
a nest of ruffianism and the centre of the cruel sports 
which were the delight of all classes. At no great dis- 
tance from Sadler s Wells, on the site of what is now 
called Ray Street, formerly Rag Street, stood the 
notorious grounds of Hockley-in-the-Hole, so frequently 
referred to in the literature of the early decades of the 
eighteenth century, notably in The Beggar's Opera^ and 
in one or two of Steele's papers in the Spectator. Here 
were carried on the brutal pastimes of bull and bear 
baiting, and cock-fighting ; here, in the days before 
pugilism became a science, backsword players displayed 
the nicety of their fence, fighting with sharp weapons 
that inflicted grievous wounds, for sport had no zest for 
our ancestors unaccompanied by bloodshed, Sadler's 
Wells occasionally rivalled its near neighbour by pro- 
viding similar fare as an* additional attraction for its 
patrons, though rope-dancing, pantomime, and tumbling 
were always its staple amusements. 

When George II. came to the throne, Sadler and 
dancing-master Forcer both had passed away, and the 
son of the latter, a barrister, had succeeded to "the 
Wells." The new lessee seems to have given a more 
theatrical turn to the entertainment by adding musical 
interludes, and under his regime the Spa was more 
flourishing than ever, being patronised by royalty ; for 
in 1 735 the Princesses Amelia and Caroline went thither 
to drink the waters, in consequence of which the nobility 
flocked in such numbers that the proprietor would take 
nearly ;^30 during a morning. 

Forcer junior died in 1743. Under the next manager, 
one Warren, the " Musick House*' was most villainously 
disreputable. In Kirkmans Memoirs of Macklin we 
find the following description of the place as one of the 


reminiscences of the old actor : ** I remember when the 
price of admission here was but threepence, except a few 
places scuttled off at the sides of the stage at sixpence, 
and which were usually reserved for people of fashion, 
who occasionally came to see the fun. Here we smoked 
and drank porter, or rum and water, as much as we 
could pay for ; and every man had his doxy that liked it, 
and so forth ; and though we had a mixture of very odd 
company, for I believe it was the baiting place of thieves 
and highwaymen, there was littie or no rioting. Some 
hornpipes and ballad-singing, with a kind of pantomimic 
ballet, and some lofty tumbling, and all was done by 
daylight, and there were four or five exhibitions every 
day. The length of each depended upon circumstances. 
The proprietor had always a fellow on the outside of the 
booth to calculate how many people were collected for 
a second exhibition, and when he thought there were 
enough, he came to the back of the upper seats and 
shouted, *Is Hiram Fisteman here?* This was the 
cant word agreed upon with the performers. Upon 
which they concluded the entertainments with a song, 
dismissed the audience, and prepared for a second repre- 


In 1744 Sadler's Wells was presented by the Grand 
Jury of Middlesex as a place injurious to public morals. 
Two years later we find that there was no charge for 
admission beyond a pint of wine, which cost one shilling, 
and as a specimen of the kind of amusements provided, 
it may be mentioned that Hogarth s Harlot's Progress 
was dramatised with all its repulsive details. Harle- 
quins, mountebanks, tumblers, singers, and dancers still, 
however, formed the principal part of the company. A 
wonderful equilibrist named Maddox, who seems to have 
anticipated what we regard as the new tricks of the 


present professors of the art, appeared here in the middle 
of the eighteenth century. Balancing himself upon the 
slack wire, he could toss balls and kick straws into a 
glass he held in his mouth, balance a cart-wheel upon 
his shoulder or his chin, and finish up by poising two 
wheels with a boy standing on one of them. That these 
amusements were patronised by the upper classes is 
proved by an advertisement in the Public Advertiser to 
the effect that on certain nights a horse patrol would be 
stationed on the new road between the Sadler's Wells 
and Grosvenor Square for the protection of the nobility 
and gentry. 

Rosoman, a builder, whose name still survives in 
Rosoman Street, Clerkenwell, pulled down the old 
wooden Musick House in 1765, and raised a stone 
theatre — the present building — in its place, at a cost of 
;^4,225, the demolition and re-erection occupying, it 
is said, only seven weeks. Rosoman greatly improved 
the status of Sadler's Wells; the prices of admission 
were raised to two-and-sixpence to the boxes, one shil- 
ling to the pit, and sixpence to the gallery, while for an 
extra sixpence a pint of good wine, **that had been four 
years in the wood," was supplied to all who liked to avail 
themselves of the privilege. 

Until 1796 the auditorium was fitted up exactly like 
a modern music-hall, with high-backed seats and little 
ledges behind each for bottles and glasses, and the 
audience drank and smoked throughout the perform- 
ance. When Rosoman retired in 1772 Tom King, 
whom we have met at Drury Lane, took the house and 
brought fashionable audiences there to patronise him. 
After a while the interior was entirely remodelled, but 
the style of entertainment remained much the same as 


The playbills of the time announced that a Miss 
Richer will appear on two slack wires, and pass through 
a hoop with a pyramid of glasses on her head, and 
Master Richer will perform on a tight-rope with a 
skipping-rope; that one Joseph Dorton will drink a 
glass of wine, placed upon the stage, backwards, and 
beat a drum at the same time ; a man named Lawrence 
will throw a somersault over twelve men's heads ; and 
one Paul Redige will throw a somersault over two men 
on horseback, each of the men having a lighted candle 
on his head. Here we have our present music-hall 
attractions anticipated, and we thought they were 
novelties ! 

The great Sadler's Wells sensation of 1783 was a 
company of performing dogs, and such a rage did they 
become that the managers in that one season cleared 
;^ 1 0,000. Frederick Reynolds, in his Recollections, 
gives the following description of what must really have 
been a very remarkable performance : ** An enterpris- 
ing actor, of the name of Costello, collected at the fairs 
of Frankfort and Leipzig a complete company of canine 
performers, and arriving with them in England, Wrough- 
ton, the then manager of Sadler's Wells, engaged him. 
There were fourteen in all, and unlike those straggling, 
dancing dogs still seen in the streets, they all acted 
respondently and conjointly with a truth that appeared 
almost the effect of reason. The star of the company 
was named Moustache, and the piece produced for their 
first appearance was The Deserter. The house, crowded 
nightly, resembled in point of fashion the opera on a 
Saturday night. I will pass over the performance till 
the last scene, merely remarking that the actors of 
Simpkin, Skirmish, and Louisa were so well dressed 
and so much in earnest that in a slight degree they 


actually preserved the interest of the story and the 
illusion of the scene. But Moustache as the Deserter ! 
I see him now, in his little uniform, military boots, with 
small musket and helmet, cheering and inspiring his 
fellow-soldiers to follow him up scaling ladders and 
storm the fort. The roars, barking, and confusion 
which resulted from this attack may be better imagined 
than described. At the moment when the gallant 
assailant seemed sure of victory, a retreat was sounded, 
and Moustache and his adherents were seen receding 
from the repulse, rushing down the ladders and then 
staggering towards the lamps in a state of panic and 

Reynolds then proceeds to explain how the excite- 
ment of the scene was worked up : the dogs had been 
given no food since breakfast, a hot supper with a most 
appetising aroma was set at the top of the fort — no 
wonder they stormed it so fiercely — ^and when the 
retreat was sounded, Costello drove them back with a 
whip. Still, whatever tricks might have been resorted 
to, for an entire play to be performed by dogs was a 
very remarkable undertaking. 

Among the medley of four-legged and two-legged 
mountebanks and acrobats that occupied the stage of 
Sadler's Wells at this time, occasionally crop up names 
that were thereafter to become famous in theatrical 
annals. In 1786 Miss Romanzini, afterwards better 
known as Mrs. Bland, onp of the most delightful of 
English ballad singers, made her first appearance here ; 
two years later, *' Master Abrahams," who had been 
seen a twelvemonth previously at the Royalty in Well- 
close Square, then a mere boy, sang at the Islington 
house, before he had disguised his Hebrew patronymic, 
by cutting off its first and last letters, to Braham. As 


the nursery of pantomimists *'the Wells" was always 
celebrated ; here Boyce, the most finished harlequin of 
his own day and far surpassing anything that has been 
seen since, unless an exception be made in favour of 
Byrne, was first introduced to the public. 

But most famous of all names connected with the old 
theatre is that of Grimaldi. Giuseppe, the father of 
Joey, came to England in 1760 as dentist to Queen 
Charlotte. But having been a dancer in his own 
country he abandoned tooth-extracting to become ballet- 
master at Drury Lane and Sadler's Wells. Young Joe 
made his d^but upon the stage of the latter house as a 
sprite at the age of one year and eleven months, and 
soon afterwards appeared as ** little clown" to his father 
at a salary of fifteen shillings a week. At three years 
old he performed the part of a monkey, and made such 
a hit that he was put on the staff of the theatre. His 
father died when he was a mere child, leaving his wife 
and family totally unprovided for. Joey was then en- 
gaged at Drury Lane as well as at '*the Wells." 
Sheridan raised his salary to a pound ; the other 
manager reduced it to three shillings, at which pittance 
he remained for three years, making himself generally 
useful both on and off the stage. Nothing could exceed 
the drudgery of this mere child : every morning he had 
to walk from Great Wild Street, Drury Lane, where he 
and his mother lodged, to Sadler's Wells for rehearsal ; 
back to dinner at two ; then again off to the theatre, 
where he worked from six to eleven ; after that he had 
to walk home. At times he performed both at Sadler's 
Wells and Drury Lane on the same night ; on one 
occasion he was so pressed for time that he ran from 
"the Wells" to the Hay market Opera House, where 
the Drury Lane company were performing during the 


rebuilding of their own theatre in 1794, in fourteen 
minutes, and after walking on in a procession, which 
was all he had to do, ran back to Sadler's Wells, to 
play clown in the pantomime, accomplishing the return 
journey in thirteen minutes. But by this time he was 
receiving £2^ a week from the Drury Lane treasury and 
;^4 from Sadler's Wells, and was rapidly rising in 
fortune and reputation. 

In the meanwhile, however, many changes had taken 
place in the management of Sadler's Wells. At the end 
of ten years, that is to say in 1782, King gave it up in 
consequence of being appointed Sheridan's manager at 
Drury Lane, and sold his interest to Arnold, his partner, 
and Wroughton, a Drury Lane actor, for ;^ 12,000. 
After Wroughton's time, at the close of the eighteenth 
century, Mrs. Siddons' husband took up the lesseeship. 
During his term a boy named Master Carey, the great- 
grandson of that Henry Carey who wrote " Sally in our 
Alley," and composed many of the most successful ballad 
operas for this theatre, made his d6but here under the 
title of **The Pupil of Nature," and recited Rollo's 
speech from Ptzarro. Little thought Mr. Siddons that 
this boy, under the name of Edmund Kean, was destined, 
**at one fell swoop," to destroy the great Kemble school 
that then reigned supreme. 

It was not until 1804, when the house was under the 
management of Charles Dibdin, a Mr. Hughes being 
the chief proprietor, that Sadler's Wells began that series 
of nautical dramas, with sensational effects and real water, 
that obtained for it the name of the "Aquatic Theatre," 
and formed its principal attraction during the next forty 
years. For these effects a gigantic tank, fed from the 
New River, was constructed beneath the stage, and a 
drama entitled The Siege of Gibraltar was produced ; in 


this piece real vessels floated on real water for the 
bombardment of the fortress ; the heroine fell from the 
rocks into the sea, and her lover plunged after her ; 
there were a naval battle and a ship on fire, from which 
the sailors sprang into the waves to escape the flames, 
and in another scene a child was cast into the water and 
rescued by a Newfoundland dog. The tank was ninety 
feet long, five feet deep, and in some places twenty-four 
feet wide ; there was a second over the stage, fifteen 
feet square and five feet deep, for waterfall effects. In a 
play called The Island, founded upon the story of the 
Mutiny of the Bounty, the stage was raised bodily to the 
roof for one act which was performed upon the tank. 

That the writer of the finest of nautical songs, ** Tom 
Bowling," should have been the creator of the nautical 
drama was highly appropriate, and that at the period 
when the English Navy was at the height of its glory it 
should prove an immense success was a matter of course. 
The sailors who fought under Nelson were to the public 
all Tom Bowlings, careless, generous, tender-hearted, 
brave as lions, yielding up their lives at the call of duty, 
unconquered and unconquerable ; this was the type that 
remained a chief favourite with East End and transpon- 
tine audiences for considerably over half a century, or 
until burlesque and cynicism, and the inevitable decay 
which in time destroys every species of dramatic com* 
position not based upon the eternal truths of human 
nature, cast it into the limbo of thousands of other 
fashions of the hour. But for the genius of T. P. Cooke, 
who roused the emulation of a host of imitators, however, 
it might not have enjoyed so long a term of life. An 
appalling calamity overshadowed the fortunes of Sadler's 
Wells in October, 1807, 1^ consequence of a false alarm 
of fire raised during the performance. 


Twenty-three persons lost their lives, suffocated, 
trampled to death, or dashed to pieces by leaping from 
the gallery into the pit. The theatre was opened two 
nights for the benefit of the relations of the deceased, 
and of the large number who lay dangerously injured in 
the hospital, and then closed until Christmas. 

In 1817, in consequence of a disagreement with the 
management, for the first time for many years Grimaldi 
was missing from the bills. The next season, however, 
unfortunately for himself, he returned as manager, being 
at the same time a large shareholder. This speculation 
resulted in a heavy loss for our poor clown. 

The bills of Sadler s Wells are very monotonous. Year 
after year we find terrific melodramas with astounding 
titles, and ballets and pantomimes succeed each other 
with persistent regularity. The subjoined, taken from 
Hones Every Day Book, is a curious and representative 
specimen of the programmes of the time. The date is 


In Perfect Confidence, 

The following extraordinary comic performances at 

Sadler's Wells 

Can only be given during the present week. The proprietors, there- 
fore, most respectfully inform that fascinating sex, so properly dis- 
tinguished by the appropriate appellation of 

The Fair! 

And all those well inclined gentlemen who are happy enough to 
protect them, that the amusements will consist of a romantic tale of 
mysterious horror and broad grin, never acted, called the 

Enchanted Girdles, 

WiNKi THE Witch, 
And the Ladies of Samarcand. 


A most whimsical burletta, which sends people home perfectly ex- 
hausted from uninterrupted risibility called 

The Lawyer, The Jew, 


The Yorkshireman, 

With, by request of 75 distinguished families, and a party of 5, that 
never to be sufSciently praised pantomime, called 

Magic in Two Colours; 


Fairy Blue and Fairy Red, 


Harlequin and the Marble Rock. 

It would be perfectly superfluous for any man in his senses to 
attempt anything more than the mere announcement in recommendation 
of the above unparalleled representations, so attractive in themselves 
as to threaten a complete monopoly of the qualities of the magnet ; 
and though the proprietors were to talk nonsense for an hour, they 
could not assert a more important truth than that they possess 

The only Wells from which you may draw 

Three Shillings and Sixpence 
A fill! Quart. 

Those whose important avocations prevent their coming at the 
commencement will be admitted for 

Half Price at Half-Past Eight. 

Ladies and gentlemen who are not judges of the superior enter- 
tainments announced are respectfully requested to bring as many as 
possible with them who are. 

N.B. — A full moon during the week. 

The reference to the full moon is intended for those 
living westward, who had to cross the lonely regions of 
Battle Bridge and the New Road which were still infested 
by footpads. 

But to return to Grimaldi. His pecuniary losses were 
not his worst ; his long life of arduous toil had brought 


on premature decay. At length he was compelled to 
relinquish his engagement at Covent Garden, which 
brought him in ;^ 1,500 a year, including a benefit. 
And on Monday, March 17th, 1828, the Sadler s Wells 
playbill announced that on that night Mr. Grimaldi 
would make his last appearance at that theatre, and bid 
his patrons and friends ** Farewell." 

The house for that event was crowded to the ceiling — 
Londoners are always faithful to their old favourites; 
the low, faltering accents in which the old actor bade 
adieu to those present, many of whom had followed his 
career from boyhood, were listened to in tearful silence, 
to be followed by burst upon burst of applause. A 
little over three months afterwards he took his final 
leave of the stage at Drury Lane, of which an account 
has been already given.^ He survived his retirement 
nearly nine years, dying in the May of 1837. 

Grimaldi was the Garrick of pantomime ; he was the 
creator of the modern clown, which scarcely existed 
before his time, and of the harlequinade of our boyish 
days. Yet, wonderful as was his grotesque humour, 
creating inextinguishable laughter, Grimaldi was much 
more than a mere buffoon. On one benefit night he 
gave the dagger scene of Macbeth in his clown *s dress. 
R. H. Home, who was present, says : ** Notwithstand- 
ing this, and that he only made audible a few elocutionary 
sounds of the words, a dead silence pervaded the whole 
house, and I was not the only boy who trembled : 
young and old seemed to vibrate with the effect upon 
the imagination." When he sang ** An Oyster Crossed 
in Love,'' such touches of real pathos trembled through 
its grotesqueness as he sat in front of the footlights, 
between a cod's head and a huge oyster that opened 

^ See p. 94. 


and shut its shell in time to the music, that all the 
children were in tears; while everyone roared over 
- Tippitewichet," '* Hot Codlins," " Me and my Neddy." 

During the next ten or fifteen years the history of 
the ** Aquatic Theatre " presents few points of interest. 
During the twenties Mrs. Egerton — the house was 
under the management of her husband — a very fine 
actress in such parts as Madge Wildfire and Meg 
Merrilies, well known in the West End, was the bright 
particular star of this northern hemisphere. In 1832 
Sadler*s Wells was presided over by the celebrated Mrs. 
Fitzwilliam ; Buckstone was a member of the stock 
company, and wrote pieces for it. For several years 
Honner — the husband of a famous melodramatic heroine 
of the olden time, better known in the East than the 
West, however — ruled the destines of the old Islington 

The style of entertainment given at " the Wells " had 
gradually improved ; dramatic versions of Sir Walter 
Scott s novels, and, when a star came, occasional in- 
cursions into the realm of the legitimate drama, varied 
the highly -spiced fare which had formerly been in- 
variably presented to the patrons of this theatre, and it 
was on these lines that the later lessees conducted the 
house until 1844, when, most important of all events in 
its history, it was let to Samuel Phelps and Mrs. 
Warner — the latter one of the finest tragediennes of the 

We have already met Phelps at the Hay market, 
Covent Garden, and Drury Lane. 

While the legitimate drama could be performed only 

in the three principal theatres of the metropolis, a 

tragedian had little option. But when free trade was 

established in the dramatic kingdom, the aspect of things 

2 B 


theatrical underwent an entire change. Nevertheless, it 
was as daring a project as that conceived by Marie 
Wilton more than twenty years afterwards, to convert 
such a theatre as Sadler's Wells, which for nearly two 
centuries had been the resort of the roughest audiences 
of London, from the home of the lowest form of 
dramatic entertainment to the most legitimate temple 
of the drama that had been known since the days 
of the Blackfriars. Even more remarkable than the 
idea were the energy and tenacity of purpose that 
enabled Samuel Phelps to carry it out with supreme 
success. The first thing he did was to establish order 
in the unruly gallery. Few men would have had the 
courage to discard one set of patrons on the mere chance 
of securing a better ; and that was exactly what the new 
lessee did ; upon the slightest disturbance the offenders 
were instantly expelled, and he would even put on a 
cloak over his stage dress and go up into the gallery 
himself to enforce order. 

Phelps opened Sadler's Wells on May 27th, 1844, 
with Macbeth, Mrs. Warner being Lady Macbeth, and 
Marston Macduff. Within twp years his fair partner 
retired, and in the July of 1846 the theatre, after some 
very considerable alterations had been effected, was 
announced to be under the management of Messrs. 
Greenwood and Phelps. They started with a pro- 
duction of The First Part of Henry IV., in which 
Phelps played Falstaff for the first time, and Creswick 
was the Hotspur. The highest price of admission for 
years had been only two shillings, but this season a first 
circle was added, for which three shillings was charged 
— the highest throughout this management. 

Henry IV. was the first of that noble series of Shake- 
spearian revivals which included all the great dramatist s 


plays, except Titiis Andronicus, Trotlus and CressidUy 
and the three parts of Henry VL Although not equal 
in cost or splendour to similar productions of Macready's 
at Drury Lane or Charles Kean's at the Princess's, all 
these works were admirably mounted, and with a correct- 
ness and attention to details and a reverence for the text 
that have seldom been equalled. 

He also revived plays by Beaumont and Fletcher, 
A King and No King, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, 
The Honest Mans Fortune^ and an alteration of The 
Maid's Tragedy renamed The Bridal; Massingers 
The City Madam^ The Fatal Dowry ^ A New Way to 
Pay Old Debts ; also Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, 
Rowley s A Woman Never Vext, Otway's Venice Pre- 
served, Macklin*s Man of the World, Gibber s The Fop's 
Fortune, Vanbrugh s and Gibber s The Provoked Hus- 
band, Rowes Arden of Feversham, Goldsmith's The 
Good- Natured Man, Cumberland s The Wheel of 
Fortune ; as well as other plays by Leigh Hunt, Byron, 
Knowles, Bulwer Lytton, Golman, Mrs. Gentlivre, 
Sheridan, Selous, the Rev. James White, and Tom 
Taylor's The Fool's Revenge, a version of Hugo's Le Rot 

Among the actors who were at different times enlisted 
under his banner were Henry Marston, George Bennett 
(the last of the Kemble school), Greswick, Hoskins (after- 
wards a favourite tragedian in Australia), Frederick 
Robinson, William Belford, Hermann Vezin, Miss Glyn, 
Mrs. Hermann Vezin, Miss Gooper, Fanny Vining, 
Margaret Eburne, Mrs. Marston (a very fine "old 
woman"), Fanny Huddart, and many others well known 
in their day but now only names. Here was an array 
of talent that the patent houses could not equal. 

Under the rule of Samuel Phelps the drama fulfilled 


its highest purpose — that of interpreting and bringing 
home, both to the cultured and the uncultured, the noblest 
truths of poetry, the grandest conceptions of genius. 
While the once great patent theatres were handed over 
to wild-beast shows, and were sunk in the deepest slough 
of degradation, while the fashionable world deserted the 
drama for the opera, the little remote suburban house — 
for it was remote in those days from the great centres of 
London — was nightly filled with an eager and a rapt 
audience, most of them fresh from the workshop or the 
counter, drinking in immortal ideas, of which but for 
the stage they would have lived and died in ignorance. 
To the refining and educating influences of the actor's 
art under such conditions there is no limit. 

Those who did not see Phelps in the great parts of 
tragedy until his last seasons at Drury Lane were 
scarcely fair judges of his capacities, for his powers were 
then on the wane. He was the last of the old school 
of tragedy ; with him the traditions that, through Better- 
ton, Booth, Garrick, Kemble, Macready, had been 
handed down more or less faithfully from Shakespeare 
himself, died from utter senility and decrepitude, for 
what had once been the spontaneous outcome of genius 
had now shrunk by constant repetition into the merest 
conventionalism. Phelps was always thoughtful, artistic, 
and imbued with a thorough knowledge and appreciation 
of his author ; his delivery of ** To be or not to be " was 
among the most impressive I have heard ; in the mad 
scenes of Lear he was very fine ; there were points even 
in his Othello that for subtlety of interpretation it would 
be difficult to surpass ; his address to the soldiers in 
Henry V. would rouse his audience to enthusiasm ; but 
he lacked poetry and distinction ; nor did he ever 
electrify by any flash of genius, he never passed the 


invisible line that separates the good actor from the great. 
To see him in one of Shakespeare's tragic parts was an 
intellectual pleasure, . satisfying the judgment, though 
seldom appealing to the imagination. 

But as a character actor, in certain rdles, he stood 
supreme. The stage has never given us anything more 
perfect than his Sir Pertinax Macsycophant — and oh, 
ye gods, his Bottom the weaver! who that had the 
privilege of seeing it can ever forget that marvellous 
performance.^ Before his time actors had made the 
part a mere buffoon ; but the manner in which Phelps 
elaborated and drew subtle meanings out of every line, 
his delivery of the soliloquy after the awakening — a few 
broken sentences, conveying to the ordinary reader 
nothing — but, as he pronounced it, a whole psychological 
history ; the manner in which the conceited clown after 
his transformation became densely asinine, ever surrep- 
titiously feeling for the long ears that had gone ; this was 
indeed great acting. Justice Shallow, Job Thornberry, 
King James, Trapbois, were in their way equally fine ; 
nor must we forget his powerful performance of Manfred 
and Werner. 

The last-named play recalls a memorable night at 
Sadler's Wells — it was somewhere in 1861 — when the 
lessee's son, Edmund, made his first appearance upon 
the London stage in the character of Ulric to his father's 
Werner. Perhaps the old actor never performed the 
part so finely as he did on that night. The identity 
between the real and the ideal relations of the characters 
was as vivid to him as to the audience, and gave a 
deeper intensity, on both sides, to the scenes between 
father and son. More than once the self-control so 
necessary to the artist in the very tempest of passion, 
nearly forsook him ; but such falterings struck home to 


every heart, rousing the spectators to yet stronger sym- 
pathetic demonstrations, that mounted higher and higher 
to the end of the tragedy, and culminated in a rising 
en masse and bursts of cheering as both actors were 
summoned again and again before the curtain. The 
mantle of the father, however, did not descend upon the 
son, for Edmund Phelps never rose above mediocrity. 
His career was a sadly brief one, and his early and 
sudden death was a blow from which the father never 

Samuel Phelps's latest biographers deny that he was 
an imitator of Macready ; but those' who have seen the 
two famous actors in Werner aver that the one rendering 
was a facsimile of the other; indeed, Phelps was not 
only Macreadyish on the stage, but off it as well, and 
was too much given to reproduce the moroseness and 
overbearing airs of his former chief, accompanied by 
those grunts and mutterings which made the elder 
tragedian a constant butt for imitators. There was 
little or nothing of the professional type about Samuel 
Phelps, and an actor was about the last thing that a 
stranger would have taken him to be. He was an 
ardent disciple of Izaak Walton; for several years during 
the summer vacation he went down to Farningham, and 
put up at the hotel there to enjoy a little fishing ; every- 
body about, it would seem, took him for a quiet country 
gentleman. But during the run of The Doge of Venice^ 
a farmer of the neighbourhood happened to go to Drury 
Lane ; there was no mistaking those nasal tones, and, 
after listening to the Doge for some little time, he 
whispered to a companion, " Why, dang me if that ain't 
our old fisherman ! " 

The retirement of Greenwood in i860 was the be- 
ginning of the end of the Phelps management, for it 


would seem that the actor had no capacity for the 
commercial side of the speculation. Two seasons after- 
wards, in 1862, he grew weary of absolute government, 
and bade adieu to his old home, though he afterwards 
visited it on several occasions as a star. 

Captain Morton Price and Miss Lucette, with a light 
style of entertainment, occupied Sadler*s Wells for a 
season; and in the autumn of 1863 it came into the 
hands of Robert Edgar, who, chiefly through the talents 
of his wife, Miss Marriott, a noted lady Hamlet, was 
lessee for the next six years. A mixture of the legiti- 
mate and strong domestic drama, such as Boucicault's 
Jeannie Deans, were the usual entertainments during 
that period. For the next few years the house sank to 
very low depths, it was turned into a skating rink, it was 
the scene of a prize-fight, it was closed as dangerous. 

In 1879 Mrs. Bateman, upon leaving the Lyceum, 
became the manageress, reconstructed the interior, and 
made an attempt to revive something of the old prestige. 
A round of legitimate drama, with Kate Bateman as the 
leading lady and a fairly good company, failed to draw. 
When Mrs. Bateman died in 1881, her daughter Isabel 
carried on the theatre for a while. But since the days of 
Greenwood and Phelps that revolution in things theatri- 
cal, which I have descanted upon at the beginning of this 
chapter, was changing the old order, and the generation 
of playgoers that had hung delightedly on the lips of 
their oracle had passed away, tastes had changed, and 
audiences persistently turned their faces westward. 
After the Bateman management the old house went 
from bad to worse, and its later history is not worthy of 
record. It has for a long time given two performances 
a night at very cheap prices. 

Although the interior is for the most part new, the 


outward walls are the same that Rosoman raised a 
hundred and forty years ago, when the New River 
flowed in front of them, so that Sadler s Wells is 
certainly the oldest theatre in England, and probably in 

Half a century ago, and much later, the gardens of 
the Eagle Saloon, afterwards better known as The 
Grecian, in Shepherdess Walk — a name reminiscent of 
rurality — was a favourite cockney resort in summer time, 
where al fresco singing and dancing by the light of 
variegated lamps could be indulged in. In 1832, Thomas 
Rouse, or " Brayvo Rouse," as he was usually hailed by 
his patrons, opened a theatre in the grounds. As a 
caterer for the public taste, Rouse was before his time ; 
his ambition was to provide a superior class of enter- 
tainment to that which obtained at the other cheap 
theatres. He engaged a good band and chorus, and 
capable singers and actors to interpret some of the 
lighter operas of Auber, Boieldieu, and Adolphe Adams, 
which were heard for the first time in England in the 
humble precincts of the City Road. 

Augustus Sala writes in his little book on Robson : 
** Drinking and smoking went on during the perform- 
ance, but the pieces put on the stage were all of a high 
class, and the scenery and appointments would not have 
disgraced the Olympic during the brilliant reign of 
Vestris and Planch^. The admission fees were low, 
the place was comfortably and luxuriously fitted up, 
the entertainments were on the most liberal scale, and 
the proprietor sat every night in a box in full view of 
the audience, keeping order with as much dignity as the 
Speaker of the House of Commons." 

Rouse lost about ;^2,ooo a year by attempting to 
improve the musical taste of his patrons ; but as the 


tavern brought in about ;^5,ooo, the debit and credit 
accounts were very well balanced. The Eagle was 
likewise celebrated for its buffo singing. Chief among 
these singers were Henry Howell and Robert Glindon. 
The latter wrote his own songs, and " Biddy the Basket 
Woman," '* The Literary Dustman,** and several others 
were very celebrated in their day. In the gardens, 
during the summer months, dancing and singing still 
went on as in the old time. 

Robson's first London engagement was at the 
Grecian, 1844, where he remained about five years, 
and played, without exciting any particular attention, 
in The Wandering Minstrel, Boots at the Swan, that 
afterwards drew all London to the Olympic. After 
the play was over a miscellaneous concert was given 
in one of the large saloons attached to the grounds, and 
he often sang **Vilikins and his Dinah" and '*The 
Country Fair," between eleven and midnight, little 
dreaming of the rage these ditties would create in 
the years to come. Sims Reeves was first heard here 
as a member of the chorus. 

It was in 1851 that Conquest succeeded Rouse as 
the manager of the Grecian Saloon. The theatre had 
a huge area, within a few feet of that of Drury Lane ; 
the ground floor formed an enormous pit, and at the 
back was a circle. The new management began with 
a revival of The Midsummer Night's Dream, and 
legitimate tragedy and comedy kept the stage for two 
or three years, to the great loss of the speculator. 
By-and-by the house was rebuilt, the ground lowered 
some eighteen feet, and two tiers of boxes and a gallery 
formed. After the alterations the Grecian would hold 
3,400 people. Ballets, under the direction of Mrs. 
Conquest, who was a very fine dancer, supported by 


her pupils, became the great feature of the theatre. 
There were still a dancing-room, and alfresco entertain- 
ments in the grounds as well, to add to the attractions 
of the place, and the gardens were opened on Sundays 
for sacred music. 

From the time George Conquest took an active share 
in the management, which was about 1857, pantomime 
and strong melodrama reigned paramount. As a daring 
gymnast, Mr. Conquest has never had a superior, and 
the Grecian pantomime became one of the things of 
the Christmas season. The name Saloon was long 
since changed to Theatre, and in 1876 it was again 
rebuilt at a cost of between ;^8,ooo and ;^9,ooo. Only 
three years afterwards Mr. Conquest disposed of the 
property to a man named Clark, at one time lessee of 
the Adelphi. Clark had made a large fortune in the 
marine store trade, and lost it all at the Adelphi and 
the Grecian; the ;^9,ooo for which he sold the City 
Road property to the Salvation Army in 1881 being all 
that he saved out of the ;^2 1,000 he had given for it. 

Miss Kate Vaughan and Miss Lingard were pupils 
of Mrs. Conquest. Messrs. Harry Nicholls, Herbert 
Campbell, Arthur Williams, Miss Victor were for years 
members of the stock company. It was here also that 
Paul Merritt and Henry Pettit produced their first 
dramatic essays. 

In Shepherdess Walk, close by, there was formerly 
another saloon theatre called The Albert ; but when it 
was first opened or closed I have been unable to dis- 

In High Street, Hoxton, was a theatre that was once 
perhaps the best paying in London, but one unknown, 
unless by name, to all except the residents in the im- 
mediate neighbourhood. The Britannia Saloon, as it 


was originally called, was opened by Sam Lane in 1841 ; 
his widow, Sarah Lane, an excellent actress of soubretteSy 
who continued to act to within the last years of her 
life, succeeded him in 1849, and was the manageress 
until her death, which occurred in 1899. No theatre was 
ever before so long under one management, and in every 
other respect it was unique ; actors joined the company 
in their youth and remained, some of them, until they 
were incapacitated by age, or had strutted and fretted 
their last hour upon the stage of life. Authors wrote 
exclusively for the house, and the Britannia was the 
last to give up its peculiar style of drama — which mostly 
preached the gospel of rags and *orny-*anded virtue and 
the wickedness that was engendered by wearing a 
decent suit of clothes — and adopt second-hand West End 
pieces. Formerly the pantomimes at this house ran up 
to Easter and were well staged. The Britannia, as I 
have said, was entirely supported by the inhabitants of 
North London, especially those of Hoxton and Kings- 

The site now partly covered by the Britannia was 
once occupied, in the time of Elizabeth, by a noted 
hostelry and gardens called "the Pimlico," and, like 
Totten Court and White Conduit Gardens, was a 
favourite resort of London citizens for many gener- 
ations. On Easter Monday, 1841, the house and gar- 
dens were opened by Mr. Lane with the following 
advertisement : — 

" Royal Britannia Saloon. — Britannia Tavem, Hoxton. Licensed 
pursuant to Act of Parliament. Proprietor, Mr. S. Lane. Open every 
evening, with splendid decorations i la Watteau (by Mr. Fenhoult, of 
the Theatres Royal). Variety Entertainment — Talented Company — 
Grand Concert — Opera and Vaudeville — Rope and other Dancing — 
Ballet — Laughable Farce. Neither talent nor expense is spared. Prices, 
Reserved seats 6d., and Upper Stalls is., for which a refreshment 


ticket is given. Doors open at 6 o'clock, commence at half-past 
Chorus master, Mr. Rudford; Ballet master, Mr. Smithers; Leader 
of the Band, Mr. Jackman ; Machinist, Mr. Rowe." 

After the passing of the new Licensing Act, melo- 
dramas were produced with a strong company, and in 
1850 the premises were greatly enlarged and improved, 
though the house was not closed a single night. In 
1 85 1, James Anderson was engaged here at a salary 
of ;^ 1 20 a week, to play a round of Shakespearian parts, 
and frequently returned on similar terms. Once a year 
there was always a week or two devoted to Shakespeare, 
the parts being played by the stock company. On June 
29th, 1858, the old Saloon was closed for ever; some 
adjoining houses were bought, and a new and colossal 
theatre, that would hold three thousand people, opened 
in the November of the same year, was erected on the 
ground. Every variety of entertainment has been given 
at the Britannia, from Pepper s Ghost to Tom King the 
pugilist, from champion swimmers, giants, acrobats, to 
Arthur Orton. 

In an interview which Mrs. Lane granted not very 
long before her death, she remarked upon the change 
that had come over the audience. The Middleman had 
just been performed there with great success. " I can 
remember the time, many years ago," she said, " when 
The Middleman wouldn't have drawn at all after the 
first night. In those days we used to put on such awful 
rigmaroles as Sweeny Toddy the Barber of Fleet Street^ 
who used to murder the people that came to be shaved, 
cut them up, and sell them to Mrs. Lovat, a pastry- 
cook, to make pies of them. But," she added, " the play 
must have a good moral, whatever it is; our people 
wouldn't care for anything that hadn't a moral." 


Not far from the Britannia is The Variety Theatre, 
H ox ton, formerly a music-hall ; it obtained a theatrical 
licence in 1 871,* but has always blended the two styles, 
playing short pieces, with singing and other entertain- 
ments between. 

A theatre called The Alexandra was erected in the 
grounds of Highbury Barn, by Giovanelli, in 1865, for 
the performance of farces and light pieces, in which 
Dan vers, J. G. Taylor, Rachel Sanger acted. It dis- 
appeared with the gardens in 1871. 

Camden Town had its theatre thirty years ago. 
Built in 1 871, it was first called The Park, and it was 
fondly imagined by the proprietor that it might be made 
a second Prince of Wales's; West End actors were 
engaged, a West End author wrote a burlesque especially 
for it, but a lady, with not the least pretensions to talent, 
by choosing to assume the principal parts in every pro- 
duction, defeated all such possibilities. In 1873 the 
name of the theatre was changed to the Alexandra, and 
in 1 88 1 its miserable existence was put an end to by 

In Liverpool Street, King's Cross, was a squeezed-up 
building, with a small portico, that had a curious history 
attached to it. Built originally by Lanza, a teacher of 
singing, for the exercise of his pupils, also for musical 
entertainments, and called the Panharmonium, it was, in 
1832, opened by Mrs. Fitzwilliam and Buckstone as The 
Clarence Theatre. The speculation proved so un- 
remunerative that these celebrated players quickly 
abandoned it The interior was very fantastic, being 
constructed after the pattern of a Chinese pavilion. In 
1838 it was rechristened the ** New Lyceum." Manager 
succeeded manager, and under each speculator it sank 
lower, until tickets were issued to admit four persons to 


the boxes upon the payment of threepence. So utterly 
disreputable did the audiences become, that the house 
was at length closed by order of the magistrates. It 
was then converted into an amateur theatre, and called 
the Cabinet, and ultimately the King's Cross. In 1870 
some witless person once more attempted to convert 
it into a regular theatre ; it soon afterwards sank into 
oblivion, and was heard of no more in connection with 
the regular drama. 

At the end of 1870 the Philharmonic Music Hall, in 
the High Street, Islington, became The Philharmonic 
Theatre, under the management of Messrs, Head and 
Morton. A great success was achieved in the following 
year by one of the most popular of operas -bouffes, 
Genevieve de Brabant, with Miss Emily Soldene, who 
had opened the house in Chilpdric, as Drogan ; so 
admirably was the house appointed, and so excellently 
was the opera staged and cast, that this suburban theatre 
soon came to be patronised by West End audiences ; 
Madame Angot, a revival of the Grande Duchesse, etc., 
followed GeneviSve de Brabant, and other operas-bouffes, 
and occasionally dramas, with more or less success, until 
the Philharmonic fell a prey to the flames in September, 

1882. A new and handsome theatre. The Grand, 
rose upon its ashes, and was opened in the autumn of 

1883. Its existence was a brief one, as it was burned 
down at the end of December, 1887. Rebuilt upon a 
yet more elaborate scale, it was reopened in the 
December of the following year, and again perished by 
fire in February, 1900. It was re-erected and reopened 
at the end of the same year. With the exception of 
the Christmas pantomime, the Grand, like all other 
suburban theatres, is chiefly kept open by West End 
stars and travelling companies. 


Handsome theatres have been erected at Dalston, 
Stoke Newington, Muswell Hill, and Camden Town, 
but they have no separate existence ; their entertain- 
ments are chiefly drawn from the West End stages. 
Each member of these travelling companies is drilled 
into a slavish imitation of the original, from which he or 
she must not depart ; the actors are thus converted into 
automata. No training could be worse, since it does 
away with all individuality. Now and again some melo- 
drama or farcical comedy that has not received the cachet 
of the west, written and exploited by some performer of 
provincial fame, varies the monotony, but seldom or ever 
runs more than a week. But in the care bestowed upon 
the productions, the beauty and the comfort of the 
auditorum, these suburban houses are equal to all, ex- 
cept the highest-class theatres of the more fashionable 
districts, and very much cheaper. 



Astle/s Amphitheatre— The Surrey— The Victoria— The Old Peckham 
Theatre— The Bower Saloon— The Rotunda — The Deptford and Green- 
wich Theatres— The Elephant and Castle— The New Southern Theatres 
—The Royalty, Wellclose Square— The City Theatre, Grub Street— 
The Pavilion— The Garrick— The City of London— The Standard— The 
East London— The Oriental— The New Theatres. 

IN the year 1770, one Philip Astley, formerly a 
trooper, who had greatly distinguished himself in 
action, and who had always a great fancy for break- 
ing in and training horses, took upon a lease a piece 
of waste ground near the foot of Westminster Bridge, 
and opened what he called a riding-school, though it 
was really a circus ; there was a ring in the centre 
open to the sky, and seats all round ranged under a 
canvas roof; the prices of admission were threepence 
and sixpence. At first he performed without a licence, 
and proceedings were instituted against him by the 
Surrey magistrates. One day, however, the King 
happened to be passing over Westminster Bridge 
upon a horse that proved unmanageable ; Astley, who 
was looking on, came forward to His Majesty's assist- 
ance, and soon rendered the beast docile, for which 
service he was a few days afterwards rewarded with a 
licence in due form. 

In 1780 he erected a wooden building, with gallery, 
pit, and boxes, out of the old Covent Garden hustings, 



which had just been used for an election ; this debris was 
the perquisite of anybody who chose to remove it, and 
was usually made into a bonfire by the mob to celebrate 
the return of the successful candidate. Astley offered 
gin and beer to those who would bring him the wood 
instead of burning it, and therewith built his new 
Amphitheatre. The interior being decorated so as to 
resemble an avenue of trees, it was called the ** Royal 
Grove." The prices ranged from two shillings to 
sixpence. The entertainments consisted of performing 
dogs, tumbling, and feats of horsemanship. In 1787 he 
added burlettas and pantomime. Seven years later the 
building was burned to the ground* In less than seven 
months a new one rose in its place. In 1803 ^^^ was 
also destroyed by fire. Without losing a day the sturdy 
old trooper set about raising a successor. Morning, 
noon, and night, in snow and rain, drilling his workmen 
as though they were a troop of soldiers, he personally 
superintended the work, as he did later on in Wych 
Street, until all was completed. The new house opened 
on Easter Monday, 1804, with, for the first time, an 
equestrian spectacle, though, as will be presently shown, 
he was not the originator of the kind of dramatic 
exhibition, for which the house was thereafter to be 

After having erected in France, Great Britain, and 
Ireland no fewer than nineteen amphitheatres, Astley 
died in 18 14. He was succeeded by his son, who had 
been for some years the actual manager. Young Astley 
was a famous rider, and created such an impression in 
Paris that Marie Antoinette presented him with a gold 
medal encrusted with diamonds, and gave him the name 
of the English Rose, a very high honour, as it placed 
him beside the greatest of male dancers, Vestris, who 
2 c 


was called the French Rose. In 1817 he relinquished 
his government in favour of Davis, who had been in 
partnership with him some years, and the theatre was 
rechristened " Davis's Amphitheatre." Under Davis the 
equestrian spectacles were produced on a more extensive 
scale. One, The Blood-Red Knight, brought in ;^ 18,000 
to the treasury ; The Battle of Waterloo, and The 
Burning of Moscow, in which an actor named Gomersal 
— the one whom Colonel Newcome was so struck 
with — made an immense hit by his portraiture of 
Napoleon, which drew all London over Westminster 

To Davis succeeded the famous Andrew Ducrow, 
perhaps the greatest rider that was ever seen upon the 
equestrian stage, as well as the most perfect of panto- 
mimists. How glowingly has " Christopher North," in 
the Nodes Ambrostame, dilated in the following piassage 
upon the exceptional powers of this remarkable and 
very eccentric actor. 

" Tickler. The glory of Ducrow lies in his poetical 
impersonations. Why the horse is but the air, as it 
were, on which he flies. What god-like grace in that 
volant movement, fresh from Olympus! What seems 
the feathered Mercury to care for the horse whose side 
his toe but touches, as if it were but a cloud in the 
ether ? As the flight accelerates, the animal absolutely 
disappears, if not from the sight of our bodily eye, 
certainly from that of our imagination, and we behold 
but the messenger of Jove. ... 

''Shepherd. Since as Ducrow takes his attitude as 
steadfast on the steed as on a stane, there ye behold 
stanin' before you, wi* helmet, sword and buckler, the 
image of a warrior king. . . . These impersonations by 
Ducrow prove that he is a man of genius. . . . Thus, 


to convert his frame into such forms, shapes, attitudes, 
postures, as the Greek imagination moulded into perfect 
expression of the highest state of the soul, that shows 
that Ducrow has a spirit kindred to those who in marble 
made their mythology immortal." 

Ducrow, however, was noted for a profound contempt 
for the literary part of the drama. "Cut the dialect 
(dialogue) and come to the 'osses," was his favourite 
direction. During the rehearsal of an equestrian piece 
one morning, after listening with growing impatience to 
a long dialogue between the two leading actors, he at 
last broke in with : 

" Hold hard, gentlemen ; here's a deal o* cackle 
without any good in it. TU show you how to cut it 
You say 'Yield thee. Englishman!' Then you (indi- 
cating the other) answer * Never ! ' Then you say 
* Obstinate Englishman, you die.' Then you both 
fights. There, that settles the matter; the audience 
will understand you a deal better, and the poor 'osses 
won't catch cold while you're jawing." 

Bunn, in The Stage, relates the following anecdote 
of this eccentric genius. Ducrow, loquitur: "I don't 
know how you find it, but as soon as I put up the last 
nights of the season, the beggars begin to give them- 
selves airs. I went to the theatre the other night, and 
seeing a prime little roasting pig on a nice white napkin 
in the hail, I told someone to take it upstairs to Mrs. 
Ducrow. The fellow said it wasn't for me, but for 
Mr. Roberts. He's the chap, you know, as orders the 
com for the 'osses; I'm only the chap as pays for it 
Then them confounded carpenters sneak in of a morn- 
ing with their hands in their pockets, doubled up as 
though they'd got the cramp, and at night they march 
out as upright as a dart 'Cos why? Every one of 


'em's got a deal plank up his back. Then the supers, 
every one on 'em, takes out a lump o' coal in his hat, 
and they all club their priggings together and sell the 
lot for drink. As to the riders, they come into rehearsal 
gallows grand, 'cos they've had all the season a precious 
deal better salary than they're worth ; and at night they 
come in gallows drunk and, forgetting they may want 
an engagement next year, are as cheeky as a bit of 

Although so illiterate that he seldom ventured upon 
a speaking part, however small, Ducrow's taste and 
talent as a stage manager in contrasting colours and 
arranging groups was unrivalled. Nor was his reputa- 
tion confined to the Westminster Amphitheatre, it was 
world-famous. In Paris, while performing at Franconi's, 
the Duchesse d'Angouleme presented him with a gold 
medal ; after the run of one of his pageants at Drury 
Lane, St. George and the Dragon, Queen Adelaide 
presented him with a hundred pounds, and Count 
D'Orsay with a pair of gilt pistols and a dirk mounted 
in ivory and gold. 

Astley's has been immortalised by Dickens in The Old 
Curiosity Shop^ and the name always calls up memories 
of the visit of Kit Nubbles, Mrs. Nubbles, Barbara 
and little Jacob. And Thackeray associates it with 
Colonel Newcome. 

In 1 84 1 the Amphitheatre was again destroyed by 
fire, and his losses, amounting to ;^20,ooo, so preyed 
upon Ducrow's mind as to cause his death a few months 
afterwards. The house was rebuilt by Batty, who 
changed the name to Batty 's Amphitheatre. 

After Batty came the well-known circus manager, 
William Cooke. Cooke turned Macbeth and Richard 
III. into equestrian dramas, and made White Surrey 
a leading part. 


In 1863, Dion Boucicault, with a loud flourish of 
trumpets, supposed to be a warning note of coming 
destruction to all West End managers, converted the 
famous old Amphitheatre into the Theatre Royal, 
Westminster, but the result was a miserable failure. 
His most notable production was a version of The 
Heart of Midlothian, Which Miss Marriott played for 
years afterwards at Sadler's Wells and throughout the 
country. In the following year, under the management 
of the ubiquitous E. T. Smith, the old house returned 
to its former ways. *It was in the October of 1864, 
the famous Ada Isaac Menken made her first appear- 
ance here as Mazeppa. For a number of nights she 
actually accomplished what Mr. Boucicault had threatened 
to do — brought fashionable London across Westminster 
Bridge. For many years afterwards the house was 
under George Sanger's management. It was closed 
in 1895, and a row of shops now covers the site. 

The drama of Astley's Amphitheatre was peculiar to 
itself; its most salient features were noise, blood, 
thunder, and gunpowder; tyrant kings and savage 
chiefs of the most ferocious types of theatrical humanity, 
and heroes of the most impossible bravery and virtue. 
Every great battle from Waterloo to Kassassin, probably, 
was depicted upon that stage. 

Next in order of the transpontine theatres comes the 
Surrey, which commenced its career as an amphitheatre. 
In 1 77 1 a famous equestrian performer and "strong 
man'* named Charles Hughes opened a riding-school 
and exhibition, in opposition to Astley's, in Stangate. 
Twelve years later he and Charles Dibdin, the song 
writer, entered into a partnership and raised a building 
which cost ;^i 5,000, near the Obelisk in Blackfriars 
Road. It was opened in 1782, under the name of the 
Royal Circus. 


*' Horsemanship," says Dibdin, in his Professional 
LifCy " was at that time very much admired, and I con- 
ceived that if I could divest it of its blackguardism it 
might be made an object of public consequence ; I pro- 
posed, therefore, that it should embrace all the dexterity 
and reputation of ancient chivalry ; that tournaments, 
running at the ring, and other feats of equestrian cele- 
brity, should be performed. I proposed to have a stage, 
on which might be represented spectacles, each to 
terminate with a joust or tilting match, or some other 
grand object, so managed as to form a novel and strik- 
ing coup de thidtre, and that the business of the stage 
and ring might be united." 

From this we gather that the equestrian drama did 
not originate at Astley's, but was borrowed by that 
house from the Surrey. 

At first children were the only performers, the idea 
being to make the Royal Circus a school for actors ; 
these were sixty in number, and among them were 
several destined thereafter to make some figure in the 
theatrical world, notably the future Mrs. Charles Kemble, 
Mrs. Bland, Mrs. Mountain, etc. Grimaldi, the father 
of famous Joey, was engaged as ballet-master, and the 
speculation promised every success. But the Surrey 
magistrates, who seem to have been greatly opposed 
to theatrical amusements, closed the place as an un- 
licensed building ; such resistance, however, was offered 
by the audience that the Riot Act had to be read, and 
the military called out. The following year, a licence 
being obtained, the house was reopened. The ground 
landlord. Colonel West, who was the principal pro- 
prietor, dying soon afterwards, the other partners fell by 
the ears. Dibdin was put into the King's Bench by his 
creditors and renounced by his treacherous associates. 


The management of the Royal Circus was a crown of 
thorns. Breaches of the law were continually involving 
tthe managers in prosecutions ; one Justice Hyde was 
their determined enemy, and at the head of a posse 
of constables would make raids upon the theatre and 
seize the offending parties. On one occasion, after 
arresting a man named Barret, he carried him off to 
a neighbouring public-house, and there opened a com- 
mission, the result of which was that the unfortunate 
actor was committed to Bridewell. Yet at this very 
time at a low public-house, called the ** Dog and Duck," 
in St. George s Fields close by, the" resort of the vilest 
characters, the cruel sport of duck- hunting, amidst 
scenes indescribable, was permitted to be carried on 
every Sunday. 

The RoyaJ Circus had not only the honour of intro- 
ducing equine performers to the London stage, but was 
also the first place at which canine actors appeared. 
The Thespis and Susarion of the bow-wow stage were 
called Geler and Victor, and such was their popularity 
that they held daily receptions, and people flocked in 
hundreds to gaze upon and fondle these canine phe- 
nomena. Dog pieces became quite the rage ; they even 
invaded the classic stage of Drury Lane, as we have 
seen. The actors who owned the animals were called 
" dog stars." They always travelled in pairs ; one 
played the villain, the other the virtuous individual ; the 
latter was always attended by his faithful ''dawg," who 
protected him from all the machinations of his enemy. 
At the wind up the latter took "the seize," as it was 
called, that is to say, at a given signal the dog sprang at 
his throat, which was guarded by a thick pad — invisible, 
of course, to the audience — covered with red cloth, and 
never let go until the malefactor had expired in great 


In 1803 ^he Royal Circus was burned down. Rebuilt, 
it was opened in the following year with the usual style 
of entertainment. Not until 1809, when it came unde* 
the management of William Robert EUiston, was it 
converted into a theatre. EUiston paid a rental of 
;^2,2oo per annum ; he transformed the arena into a pit, 
and the stables into saloons. The opening bill was 
unique ; the performance commenced with a drama 
entitled Albert andAdeld; or^ the Invisible Avengers, and 
to evade that stumbling-block of all minor managers, the 
Patent Act, Macbeth was converted into a ballet (Taction, 
in which the lessee took the leading part. The Beatix 
Stratagem, Hamlet, and many other legitimate plays 
were similarly treated. 

Upon EUiston s retirement, in 1814, the house was 
again turned into a circus. But in 18 16, Tom Dibdin, 
after making considerable alterations, reopened the 
Royal Circus as the ** Surrey." Under his directorship 
versions of Scott s novels were given, and Milman's 
Fazio, After seven years Dibdin came to grief, and so 
did the theatre. Pieces of the most degraded description 
were produced, notably one upon the murder of William 
Weare, in which the identical gig used by the murderers 
was brought upon the stage. 

When EUiston quitted Drury Lane, the Surrey being 
vacant, he again, in 1827, undertook the management. 
At this time Douglas Jerrold, then a young man, was 
writing dramas for Davidge of the Cobourg for five 
pounds a week. One day he and Davidge quarrelled, 
and instead of delivering over the MS. he had in his 
pocket he carried it to EUiston, who immediately accepted 
it. The drama was Black-Eyed Susan. T. P. Cooke 
was engaged for William at the then enormous salary of 
;^6o a week, and a half clear benefit every sixth week. 


The first performance was on January 26th, 1829. The 
success of the piece was not marked on the first night 
until it came to the catastrophe, but the curtain fell upon 
a whirlwind of applause, and with each succeeding per- 
formance the attraction increased. 

" All London," wrote Hepworth Dixon in the Athen- 
iBum^ at the time of Jerrolds death, "went over the 
water, and Cooke became a personage in society, as 
Garrick had been in the days of Goodman Fields. 
Covent Garden borrowed the play, and engaged the 
actor for an after-piece. A hackney cab carried the 
triumphant William in his blue jacket and white trousers 
from the Obelisk to Bow Street, and Mayfair maidens 
wept over the stirring situations and laughed over the 
searching dialogue, which had moved, an hour before, 
the laughter and tears of the Borough. On the three 
hundredth night of representation the walls of the theatre 
were illuminated, and vast multitudes filled the thorough- 
fare. When subsequently produced at Drury Lane, it 
kept off ruin for a time even from magnificent misfortune. 
Actors and managers for a time reaped a golden harvest. 
Testimonials were got up for EUiston and Cooke on the 
glory of its success, but Jerrold's share of the gain was 
slight — about £^o of the many thousands it realised for 
the management. With unapproachable meanness, EUis- 
ton abstained from presenting the youthful writer with 
the value of a toothpick. When the drama had run 
three hundred nights he said to Jerrold with amusing 
coolness, * My dear boy, why don't you get your friends 
to present you with a bit of plate?* For the four 
hundred nights Black-Eyed Susan was played at different 
theatres during the first year, Jerrold received about the 
sum that Cooke was paid for six nights at Covent 


Jerrold wrote several more pieces for this house; 
among others a five -act blank -verse tragedy called 
Thomas d BeckeL Elliston died manager of the Surrey 
Theatre. His last appearance was in June, 1831, only 
twelve days before his death, in the character of Sheva 
in Cumberland's yi^z«/, upon which occasion Black-Eyed 
Susan was played as an after-piece for the two hundred 
and twentieth time. 

At the end of the performance he made a speech — he 
was nothing if not a speech-maker — in which he humor- 
ously supposed himself to be the descendant of an old 
actor, one Mr. Elliston, who had for many years enjoyed 
the public favour, but who a few weeks before had 

<< Walk'd sober off, before a sprightlier age 
Came tittering on, to thrust him from the stage.'' ^ 

A noted actor, named Osbaldiston, was the next 
Surrey manager, and he also was so fortunate as to 
secure a highly successful piece in Fitzballs Jonathan 
Bradford, which even exceeded the run of Jerrolds 

^ Elliston never missed an opportunity of addressing an audience, and 
his speeches, wild and inconsequent to a degree, were not the least amusing 
part of the entertainment. Here is one delivered to a noisy gallery, which, 
in its grandiloquent commencement and intensely commonplace termination, 
is exquisitely comic : — *' Ladies and gentlemen, I venture as a most unob- 
trusive individual to take the great liberty of addressing you. It is of rare 
occurrence that I deem it necessary to place myself in juxtaposition with 
you. {Noise in the gallery.) When I said juxtaposition I meant vis-d-vis, 
{Increased noise,) When I uttered the word vis-d-vis I meant contactability. 
Now let me tell you that vis-d-vis, which is a French term, and contact- 
ability, which is a truly English term, very nearly assimilate to each other. 
{Disturbance redoubled.) Gentlemen, gentlemen, I am really ashamed of 
your conduct. It is unlike a Surrey audience. Are you aware that I have 
in this establishment most efficient peace officers at my immediate disposal ? 
Peace officers, gentlemen, mean persons necessary in time of war. A word 
to the wise. One more word — if that gentleman in the carpenter's cap will 
sit down {pointing to pit) the little girl in red ribbons behind him — you, my 
love, I mean — will be able to see the entertainment." 


drama, and brought to the fortunate entrepreneur the 
sum of ;^8,ocx:). And yet no poorer specimen of 
dramatic work was ever given even to the stage of a 
transpontine theatre. It was the story of a celebrated 
murder, but the chief attraction lay in a scenic effect, 
since common enough, but then a startling novelty. 
The stage was divided into four compartments, and four 
actions were carried on simultaneously. It was this 
that, for two hundred and sixty nights, crowded the 
Surrey to the ceiling. 

Davidge followed Osbaldiston. A miserly, grinding 
curmudgeon, he was Douglas Jerrold's abhorrence ; the 
famous satirist never forgave the ill-paid drudgery he 
had imposed upon him in his youth. ** May he keep a 
carriage and not be able to ride in it," was Jerrolds 
bitter invocation. And the wish came to pass ; Davidge 
made a respectable fortune, but ill-health destroyed all 
his enjoyment of it His death taking place early in the 
evening, Jerrold remarked, ** Well, I didn't think he'd 
go before half-price came in ! " 

Next came Drury Lane Bunn, Miss Romer, and opera. 
Then, in 1848, "Dick" Shepherd, a name that was for 
many years to be associated with the house, entered into 
a partnership with Osbaldiston ; it was a very brief one, 
and Shepherd was afterwards joined by Greswick, the 
tragedian. A more ill-assorted pair never coalesced; 
Creswick was nothing if not legitimate ; he had all the 
pompous grandiloquence of the old actor; while his 
partner, a famous representative of the Surrey sailor, 
swore by rough-and-tumble melodrama, was vulgar 
and slangy, and always spoke of Creswick as *' Mr. Bill 
Shakespeare." Yet their partnership endured, with one 
interruption in 1863, from 1848 to 1369, when both 


On the night of January 30th, 1865, just as the 
audience were leaving the theatre, fire broke out, and 
soon the whole building was in flames. It was a 
terrible conflagration ; fortunately no lives were lost, 
though it was with great difficulty that the poor ballet- 
girls were dragged out. The house was immediately 
rebuilt on a larger and superior scale. 

After the termination of the Shepherd and Creswick 
regime, there is nothing worth chronicling until George 
Conquest, a clever actor, playwright, and incomparable 
pantomimist, took up the management in 1880. With 
sensational dramas, many written by the lessee, well 
staged and acted, and exactly suited to the tastes of the 
audience, and a good Christmas pantomime, the Surrey 
was a flourishing house for many years. Since Con- 
quests death, in May, 1901, the Surrey has not kept up 
its old prestige, and no more need be said of it 

When the foundation-stone of The Cobourg Theatre 
was laid, it was on the western side of one of the great 
ditches that drained- Lambeth Marsh, a large portion of 
which was at the time still open fields, the New Cut 
was not yet formed ; the. foundations were the stones of 
the old Savoy Palace, then just being pulled down for 
the opening of Lancaster Place. The theatre was built 
by subscription, the Princess Charlotte and her hus- 
band. Prince Leopold, heading the list, and the house 
was named after him. But in spite of royal patronage, 
the Cobourg might never have been finished had not a 
wealthy tallow-chandler, named Glossop, with a passion 
for the drama, advanced a considerable sum, with the 
aid of which it was completed at a cost of ;^ 12,000, and 
opened in the May of 18 18. The play was Trial by 
Battle; or, Heaven Defend the Right. It was founded 
on a carise cilebte — the murder of Mary Ashford ; in 


which the accused, one Abraham Thornton, appealing to 
an old, forgotten statute, claimed "the wager by battle" 
against his accuser, the brother of the deceased, declared 
himself ready to defend his plea of not guilty with his 
body, and threw down a gauntlet, after the manner of a 
knight-errant. The challenge was not taken up, the 
prisoner was discharged, and the crime has remained an 
undiscovered mystery to this day. This extraordinary 
case had been decided only a week or two before the 
opening of the theatre. 

In addition to the drama there was "a grand Asiatic 
ballet," and a harlequinade arranged from the Masque 
of Comus. The newspapers informed the public that 
" a large and fashionable audience " was present on the 
first night; and the playbills stated that it was the 
intention of the proprietor " to have all the avenues to 
the theatre well lighted, while the appointment of addi- 
tional patrols on the Bridge Road, and keeping them in 
our own pay, will afford ample security to the patrons 
of the theatre." But fashionable audiences did not long 
continue to visit the Cobourg, which very soon became 
the resort only of the aborigines. " It is the very haunt 
and refuge of the melodramatic muse," writes a critic, 
during its earlier years; "there 'murder bares her red 
arm ' with most appalling vividness ; there the genius of 
robbery reigns triumphant on his festive throne ; there 
the sheeted ghosts do squeak and gibber across the 
frighted stage, and all the sublimities of horror are to be 
found there, in their most high and palmy state." 

The Cobourg was considered a very handsome theatre, 
and the looking-glass curtain, which was invented in 
1822, and used for several years as an act-drop, was 
one of the sights of London. It was thirty -six feet 
high, thirty-two wide, composed of sixty-three divisions. 


enclosed in a gilt frame, and was raised bodily. It was 
ultimately done away with, as its enormous weight en- 
dangered the roof. Pieces were excellently mounted — 
for those days — the scenery was well painted, indeed, 
Clarkson Stanfield was at one time among the scenic 
artists, and the acting of its kind was good. Miss 
Vincent, thirty or forty years ago, was as famous a 
heroine of domestic drama on the south side of the 
Thames as Mrs. Stirling on the north, and allowing for 
difference of style, their abilities were probably equal. 
Old Surrey-side playgoers used to talk of her acting in 
Susan HopUy, a version of Mrs. Crowe's once- famous 
novel, that for hundreds of nights drew crowded houses. 
N. T. Hicks, '* Brayvo Hicks," as he was called, 
Bengough, Watkins Burroughs, Osbaldiston, Henry 
Wallack, Henry Kemble; "Jack" Bradshaw, called the 
Paul Bedford of the "Vic," and many others, all of 
whom figured in those famous pictures known as penny 
plain and twopence coloured, in their favourite partSj 
with legs wide apart and sword or pistol in hand, and a 
large reserve in their belts, were members of the 
Cobourg company. 

West End stars occasionally crossed the river; 
Edmund Kean acted here two nights and received a 
hundred pounds for his services. The Lambethites 
preferred Tom Cobham, a famous melodramatic actor, 
in Richard to Kean, and did not conceal their prefer- 
ence, much to the disgust of the great little man. 
Paganini played here one night Buckstone made his 
first London appearance upon these boards, and many 
other distinguished actors at different times trod them. 
But none were so successful as local favourites. In 
1833 the Cobourg was rechristened the Victoria, in 
consequence of the late Queen having once, when 
Princess, paid the theatre a visit. 


For many years the old "Vic/' as it was familiarly 
called, held a unique position among London theatres ; 
both its plays and its actors were regarded as repre- 
sentatives of the most extravagant phases of melodrama, 
and furnished the burlesque-writer with endless fun. 
The audience was the lowest and vilest in London, the 
very scum of Lambeth. ** The lower orders rush there 
in mobs," wrote Charles Mathews, *'and, in shirt 
sleeves, applaud frantically, drink ginger-beer, munch 
apples, crack nuts, call the actors by their Christian 
names, and throw them orange-peel and apples by way 
of bouquets." The "Vic" was notorious for accidents, 
and a very terrible one occurred there in 1858, when 
sixteen persons were crushed to death through a false 
alarm of fire. 

On the 9th of September, 1871, the Victoria, then 
under the management of Mr. Cave, ceased to exist as 
a theatre. In order solemnly to commemorate the 
occasion, the drama upon which its curtain had first 
risen, more than half a century before, The Tried by 
Battle, was «he piece chosen. It was converted into 
the Victoria Coffee House Palace, where concerts and 
operatic selections are given at low prices. 

There was formerly an old theatre in the High 
Street, Peckham, at which a very hazy tradition asserts 
that Nell Gwynne once played. It was used for 
dramatic performances, and was for several years under 
the management of Penley, a Drury Lane actor, as late 
as 1822, when the premises were converted into a 
Lancastrian school for boys. 

A theatre that, during its latter years, gained a 
notoriety as unenviable as that of the Victoria was The 
Bower Saloon, Stangate; it was built and opened, 
in 1838, by a scene-painter named Philips. Many 


East End theatrical notabilities made their first appear- 
ance upon that stage, and some who have since pleased 
West End audiences, while many good actors out of 
engagements would accept a temporary situation there 
until they could procure something better. Mr. George 
Hodson, the father of Miss Henrietta Hodson, was one 
of the early managers ; then Biddies, the father of Mrs. 
Calvert, who as Miss Adelaide Biddies made her first 
appearance there. James Fernandez was at that time 
a member of the company. Between thirty and forty 
years ago it was nothing better than a ''gaff," to use a 
slang theatrical word for which there is no equivalent, 
and the audience was principally composed of the 
gamins of the New Cut and all the back slums of the 
Surrey side ; every kind of entertainment was given, 
from Maria Martin to Macbeth, The managements 
were usually extremely brief, the actors seldom paid, 
and the theatre more frequently closed than open. The 
Bower Saloon finally disappeared in 1879, but long pre- 
vious to that it had been a thing of the past. 

The Rotunda, in Blackfriars Road, which had once 
been occupied by the Museum of Sir Aston Lever, by 
the Surrey Institution, and subsequently used as a 
concert- room, was opened in the September, 1833, 
as The Globe Theatre. Five years afterwards it was 
again a concert-room, and ultimately descended to a 

In the years gone by there had be^n a wretched 
tumble-down old building at Deptford known as The 
Theatre Royal. In 1866 Sefton Parry built a neat little 
theatre at Greenwich to take its place. A few years ago 
a fine theatre was erected in the Broadway, Deptford. 

In 1872 a new theatre was built at the northern end 
of the New Kent Road and named The Elephant and 


Castle. It has been mostly devoted, when open, to 
lurid melodrama and a pantomime at Christmas. After 
being closed for some time it has been entirely recon- 
structed, and was reopened in August, 1902. Since 
then the style of entertainment has been much im- 

Kenning^on, Balham, Brixton, Camberwell, have now 
handsome theatres that need not fear comparison with 
those of the west, but, as I have said of the northern, 
they have no history, being used only by travelling 

From the disappearance of Odell's theatre in Ayliflfe 
Street, and Giffard s in Goodman s Fields, of which 
some account has been already given, until 1787, the 
east end of London was deprived of all theatrical 
amusement. In the year just named a new theatre was 
erected in Wells Street, Wellclose Square — so called 
from an ancient well that formerly existed in Goodman s 
Fields. The chief promoter of this speculation was 
the celebrated John Palmer, whom we have met at 
Drury Lane, and his partner was Lee Lewes,^ another 
well-known member of the patent theatres companies ; 
while Quick, Bannister, Ryder, Johnstone, Mrs. Gibbs, 
and other performers of good standing were engaged. 
Palmer, it would appear, was under the impression that 
the Lieutenant of the Tower and the magistrates of the 
Tower Hamlets had the power to license the house, and 
it was not until the building was announced to open 
that he was made aware of his unfortunate error. 

The managers of Drury Lane and Covent Garden 
took alarm at an opposition so powerful, and put forth 
an advertisement in the public prints reciting the various 
penalties entailed by such a breach of the law, together 

* He was the grandfather of George Henry Lewes, the critic. 
2 D 


with their determination to put them in force and to 
prosecute everyone concerned in any breach of the 
Patent Act. This had the effect of detaching several 
actors and actresses from Palmers company. But he 
himself, not to be daunted, opened his new theatre on 
June 20th, under the name of The Royalty, Wellclose 
Square, with As You Like IL In order to evade the 
law he announced the performance to be for the benefit 
of the London Hospital. The house was crowded ; but 
there was some disturbance, organised, no doubt, by the 
West End managers, and cries were raised for Palmer 
to produce his patent. 

The Royalty was not again opened until the 3rd of 
July. But the patentees were determined to enforce 
their rights, and show no mercy ; and one morning 
Palmer was summ<3ned by the local authorities to appear 
before them at a certain tavern in the neighbourhood — 
magisterial business being not infrequently transacted 
at public-houses in those days — to show under what 
authority or licence he was acting. Palmer, who was 
known in his profession as " Plausible Jack," as a 
constable was waiting, had no alternative but to obey 
the summons ; he presented himself before the magis- 
trates with an air of excessive humility, and in answer 
to their queries said he had a document which he hoped 
would fully justify his conduct in their worshipful eyes ; 
it was at home, he had come away so hastily, fearful of 
keeping them waiting, that he had forgotten to bring it ; 
but if they would so far indulge him as to delay a few 
minutes he would fetch it — ^he lived close by — he would 
not be two minutes. His request was granted, and, 
laying his hand upon his heart and invoking the blessings 
of Heaven upon their heads, he left the room. After 
some time, as he did not return, the magistrates rang 


for the waiter, who, upon trying to open the door, found 
it locked and the key gone. 

Fearing that he might be summarily committed to 
prison, Palmer had made prisoners of the quorum 
to gain time to get away, and the highly incensed 
gentlemen could not be released until a locksmith was 
sent for to force the lock. Both he and Bannister, 
however, were arrested, but released on bail, and a 
timely submission to the autocrats of Drury Lane and 
Covent Garden settled the difficulty. 

The first time Palmer met Sheridan after his escapade 
it was with the air of Joseph Surface, a white pocket- 
handkerchief in his hand, his eyes turned up, his 
hand upon his heart. " Mr. Sheridan," he began, " if 
you could but know at this moment what I feel hereJ' 
"Stop, Jack," broke in the manager, "you forget 
/ wrote Joseph Surface.'' Palmer was ruined by his 
mad speculation, and although he was reinstated in his 
old position at Drury Lane, and with a considerable rise 
of salary, he was never again free from difficulties. He 
died upon the stage at Liverpool in 1796, while playing 
The Stranger. 

In 1788 Macready, the father of the great actor, per- 
mission having been obtained from the Lord Chamber- 
lain for the performance of burlettas and pantomimes, 
undertook the managment of the house for a time, but 
soon grew tired of it. After the fire at Astley's in 1794 
the burnt-out company performed at the Royalty. For 
many years it held on the usual precarious existence 
of such places; but as, from its remote situation and 
style of entertainment, it could not possibly clash with 
the West End houses, the patentees instituted no further 

In 1 810 it was known as the East London, and 


Sixteen years afterwards was burned to the ground. 
Having been rebuilt, it was reopened under the name of 
the Brunswick, and only a few days afterwards was 
destroyed by a most appalling accident. The walls, 
though only two and a half bricks in thickness, were 
ii8 feet in height, and 117 in length; upon this super- 
structure, with the idea of rendering the building fire- 
proof, an iron roof was set. Again and again the 
proprietors had been warned that the supports were not 
adequate to sustain this ponderous mass ; but iron roofs 
were little understood sixty years ago, and, in their 
haste to get the house open, the builders totally dis- 
regarded such warnings, and continued to attach further 
burdens to the already overweighted girders. On the 
third morning after the opening, February 28th, while 
the company were rehearsing Guy Mannering^ the 
theatre fell in, killing fifteen people and injuring twenty 
more ; among the former, by a strange fatality, as he 
had succeeded in escaping from the building into the 
street, was Mr. Maurice, the man whose obstinacy had 
caused the catastrophe. 

No attempt was made to rebuild the unfortunate 
house, but theatres soon began to spring up rapidly 
.at the east end of London. In 1830 a disused chapel 
in Grub Street, now Milton Street, immortalised in the 
chronicles of the eighteenth century as the abode of the 
literary hack, was converted into a theatre. It was 
named The City Theatre, and afterwards the City 
Pantheon. John Bedford, a well-known comedian, was 
the first manager ; he was succeeded by Chapman, the 
husband of Miss Ann Tree, Mrs. Charles Kean's sister, 
thereafter manager of the Tottenham Street Theatre. 
The Grub Street Theatre had the honour to introduce 
Miss Fanny Clifton, afterwards Mrs. Stirling, to the 


theatrical profession. It was here she made her first 
appearance upon the stage in the humblest walk of the 
drama, delivering messages and speaking a few lines. 
Edmund Kean played Shylock here in May, 183 1, and 
in the July of the same year Ellen Tree and James 
Vining performed in a French translation entitled One 
Fault The first stage version of Gerald Griffin's Col- 
legians, upon which The Colleen Bawn was founded, 
entitled Eily O'Connor^ was brought out the same year. 
An admirable company was engaged at this time, and 
Love in a Village was performed with a cast equal to 
any that the West End could show: Miss Forde, Rosetta ; 
Mrs. Chapman, Lucinda ; Chapman, Hawthorn ; Blan- 
chard, Justice Woodcock; Buckstone, Hodge. Black- 
Eyed Susan was given with Mrs. Chapman as Susan, 
and James Vining as William. Mr. and Mrs. Davidge 
from the Surrey, Miss Apjohn, afterwards Mrs. Frank 
Matthews, and John Reeve, were at different times 
members of the company. Chapman had been fined 
-^^350 for playing the legitimate drama at the Tottenham 
Street Theatre, and the persecution of the patent managers 
still pursuing him for defying their privileges, he retired 
from Grub Street in 1831 in favour of Davidge. The 
City Theatre was now worked in conjunction with the 
Cobourg, the same performers appearing at the two 
places nightly, being conveyed backwards and forwards 
in hackney coaches. Miss Smithson, the tragidienne^ 
who afterwards became the wife of Hector Berlioz, was 
the principal attraction in 1832. A great hit was made 
in the same year with Leman Rede's "moral drama" 
The Rakes Progress. Webster was manager for a 
while, with Mrs, Waylett as " the star." Moncrieff the 
dramatist had the house for a time, and as dramatic 
performances were forbidden tickets were sold at a 


pastrycook's opposite. In April, 1833, the fifteen years' 
lease, at a ground rent of ;^2io per annum, was sold by 
auction for 310 guineas. 1836 was the last year in 
which the theatre was opened, and warehouses were 
erected on the site. 

The year 1829 saw yet another theatre added to the 
East End list — The Pavilion in Whitechapel, which 
opened under the direction of Wyatt and Farrell. The 
latter engaged Fanny Clifton from Grub Street. Per- 
ceiving she had great promise he put her forward, and 
it was at this house that she made the first step towards 
the brilliant career that awaited her at a more fashion- 
able end of the town. The first Pavilion was burned 
down in 1856 and immediately rebuilt. Within the last 
few years the proprietor, Mr. Morris Abrahams, has had 
the house reconstructed, and it is now a spacious and 
handsomely appointed theatre, upon the stage of which 
dramas are produced in a most effective manner, and are 
interpreted by thoroughly competent companies. Its 
principal patrons are the English Jews of the neighbour- 

In 1830 a new theatre was opened in Leman Street, 
Whitechapel, and from its proximity to the scene of 
'* little Davy s" d6but was called The Garrick. Wyman 
and Conquest — the father of George — were the mana- 
gers. It was burned down in 1845, and rebuilt It 
always held a very low position even among East End 
theatres, and could seldom attract a responsible mana- 
ger. At times it fell to the level of a penny show, with 
performances twice a night. In 1873 or 1874, J. B. 
Howe, a great favourite in Whitechapel, took the house, 
renamed it the Royal Albert, furbished it up, and, with a 
fair company and a better style of entertainment, en- 
deavoured to resuscitate its fortunes ; but all his efforts 


were in vain, and he quitted the speculation bankrupt. 
The Garrick has long since ceased to be numbered 
among metropolitan theatres. 

The next in order of the East End houses was a 
second City of London, built in Norton Folgate, by 
Beazeley, the architect of the Lyceum. It was opened 
on the 30th of March, 1835, under the management of 
Cockerton. For a brief season, in 1837, it was under 
the direction of the famous Mrs. Honey, after which 
it again came into the hands of Cockerton, who was 
presently joined by Richard Shepherd, afterwards so 
well known as the manager of the Surrey. Mr. and 
Mrs. Honner opened the house in the summer of 
1846, and in addition to a series of original dramas 
produced several of Shakespeare's plays, in which 
Mrs. Honner, a very fine actress, George Bennett, 
Saville, etc., appeared. There was also an excellent 
dramatic version of Dickens's The Battle of Life given, 
in which the lady just named played Clemency in a 
style that could only have been surpassed by Mrs. 
Keeley. But the most prosperous days of the City 
were under the directorship of Johnson and Nelson Lee, 
who came here from the Standard. Johnson and Lee 
were the successors to Richardson in his famous booth, 
which they conducted until it was finally broken up. 
They were the first, at the City of London, permanently 
to reduce the prices of admission ; previous to their 
time there was no lower price than sixpence to the 
gallery at any of the East End theatres, they made it 
threepence, and sixpence to the pit ; the experiment 
proved highly successful. The **old City" was the 
best of the East End theatres. After the repeal of the 
Patent Laws nearly all the leading tragedians from the 
West End houses starred here in the legitimate drama, 


and the companies, though of the melodramatic school, 
were excellent. When Nelson Lee ceased to direct its 
destines, about 1865, the house fell to a very low level, 
and the stage being required for the extension of the 
North London line, between Shoreditch and Broad 
Street, it finally closed in 1868. The frontage in Norton 
Folgate is still standing. 

The Standard, Shoreditch, was opened about six 
months after the City. From 1837 it wasi for several 
years, under the directorship of Johnson and Lee. It 
was put up for sale in 1849, and fell into the hands 
of John Douglass, who, like Lee, had been a showman. 
After his death it passed to his sons. The '* Royal 
Standard " was burnt down in 1867. Rebuilt on a much 
more extensive scale, it was reopened as the '* New 
Standard " in the following year. This theatre, although 
it usually kept a good stock company, was the first of 
the East End houses that attracted the stars from the 
west and West End plays. Twenty, thirty, forty years 
ago all the best actors of the day appeared at different 
times upon its stage, a circumstance which, at that time, 
rendered it unique among theatres of its class, and drew 
to it a very much superior audience, chiefly from the 
northern suburbs. It has an enormous capacity. It 
was asserted to be the largest theatre in London, and 
was handsomely decorated. In the days of Richard 
Douglass, who was a very fine scenic artist, a pupil of 
Beverley s, its pantomimes ran those of Drury Lane very 

The Melvilles — father, widow, and sons — have been 
the lessees for many years. Walter Melville is the 
author of several lurid dramas, written especially for the 
Standard, two of which have recently been seen at the 
Adelphi. A particular feature of the Standard, ever 


since I can remember, has been an annual season of 
opera, usually by J. W. Turner s troupe. The Grand, the 
Dalston, the Stoke Newington have taken away most 
of the old patrons of the house, which is now, I think, 
chiefly dependent upon the locality for its supporters, 
and for them necessarily the management has to cater. 

The Effingham Saloon, Whitechapel, was first opened 
somewhere about sixty years ago. Rebuilt in 1867, it 
was renamed The East London. It was the favourite 
resort of the sailors and inhabitants of Wapping and 
the dock neighbourhood, and the pieces represented 
were adapted to their primitive tastes. It was one of 
the lowest audiences in London. The East London 
was burned down in 1879. As the theatre had not paid 
for some time, it was not rebuilt. But of late years a 
house for the performance of Yedisha plays for the 
Polish Jews, now called ** Wonderland," has been opened 
upon the old site. 

A music-hall in High Street, Poplar, was, in 1867, 
converted into a theatre called The Oriental, but after a 
few years it reverted to its original form of entertain- 
ment. It was once considered a very remote house, but 
Stratford can now boast of two well-conducted, well- 
paying theatres, where West End plays and West End 
stars are frequently seen. Sir Henry Irving has 
appeared there. 



The Adelphi, 1866- 1903, and Famous Adelphi Dramas and Actors — 
• The West London Theatre. 

THE first founder of The Adelphi Theatre was a 
colour maker and sort of Jack-of-all-trades in the 
Strand, named John Scott. He had accumulated a very 
large fortune by the invention of a washing blue, called 
the " Old True Blue," manufactured from the sooty 
deposit of some peculiar wood; a discovery he had made 
by accident while travelling in the Black Forest. Being 
fond of the society of actors, whom he was in the habit 
of entertaining, his daughter conceived a passion for the 
stage, and persuaded him to .buy some ruinous old 
property in the rear and at the side of his dwelling- 
house and build a theatre. • 

The colour merchant was 'rash enough to invest 
;^ 1 0,000 in purchasing leases and building a small 
theatre, which he christened the Sans Pareil. It was 
opened on November 27th, 1806, with an entertainment 
consisting of songs, recitations, imitations d la the elder 
Mathews, the whole being written and delivered by 
Miss Scott ; the performance winding up with a display 
of fireworks. 

Such speculations on the part of outsiders almost 
invariably prove a disastrous failure ; this, however, was 
a brilliant exception. John Scott was one of those 
persons who succeed in everything they undertake ; he 



was indefatigable in his management, and of an evening 
would take off his coat, go into the cheap parts of the 
house, and pack the people close together ; he used to 
boast that he thus often increased the takings by five 
pounds a night. Miss Scott also seems to have been a 
clever girl, who most ably seconded her father off the 
stage by her talents on. 

It was not long before the monologue and pyro- 
technic entertainment developed into the dramatic,, 
and the Sans Pareil became another thorn in the sides 
of the lessees of the patent theatres. The usual prices 
were charged: boxes, 49.; pit, 2s. \ gallery, i^.; the 
doors were opened at 5.30, and the play began at 6.30,^ 
with half-price to boxes at 8.30. The company was 
evidently of the most mediocre description, everything 
depending upon that tremendously energetic and 
industrious lady, Miss Scott, who not only performed in 
all the pieces except the pantomimes, but, according to 
the playbills, wrote them nearly all ; at the bottom of 
three-fourths of the programmes there is a line in italics, 
which informs the reader that ''the whole of this 
evening's entertainment is written by Miss Scott.*' 
Sometimes this statement is modified — Miss Scott has 
only rearranged the scenes and situations — but she has 
always had something to do with the entertainment; her 
name has invariably a line to itself, is preceded by an 
"and," and is printed in very large caps., which strongly 
contrast with the very small type that was deemed 
sufficient for everybody else ; unless it be some stray 
star from Drury Lane or Covent Garden — a star at the 

^ This was the usual time of commencement even seventy years ago ; in 
the middle of the i8th century it was six ; the lack of a complete set of play- 
bills at the British Museum renders it impossible to trace the intermediate 
times back to the three o'clock of Pepys's days. 


Sans Pareil, though a very small satellite in its own 
dramatic horizon. Upon one occasion, Miss Scott 
indignantly disclaims any connection with any other 
Scott who may be playing elsewhere, and emphatically 
declares that she has never yet appeared in any other 
theatre. Melodramas, styled burlettas in the bills, bear- 
ing such titles as The Red Robber, The Old Oak Chest, 
The Amazon Queen, are the pieces de resistance, and 
musical farces — ^also called burlettas ; these again are 
frequently supplemented by monkeys from Paris, slack- 
rope dancers from Vienna, wonderful dwarfs, and, at 
holiday seasons, by pantomimes. 

John Scott was as lucky with his theatre as he had 
been with his **01d True Blue," and made, it is said, 
thereby another large fortune. In the year 18 19 he 
sold the Sans Pareil to Messrs. Jones and Rod well for 
;^2 5,000. His daughter retired with him, at least I do 
not again come across her name in the playbills. The 
name of the house was changed with the management 
from the Sans Pareil to the Adelphi, and opened under 
that title on October i8th, 18 19. The announcement 
informed the public that it had undergone considerable 
improvements, and, after the first week, it was further 
added that "the brilliant effect of the gas chandelier 
suspended from the dome is the subject of universal 
admiration." In this year John Reeve made his first 
appearance here upon the London stage, and his remark- 
able talent in broad comedy quickly rendered him a rival 
to the great Liston himself. 

The style of entertainment under Messrs. Jones and 
Rodwell was a decided improvement on that favoured by 
the proprietor of the **01d True Blue"; melodramas of 
the red-hot school were still performed, but they were 
varied by dramatic adaptations of Walter Scott s novels. 


The management having, it would seem, prospered, 
the Adelphi in 182 1 underwent further alterations, and 
the opening bills descant glowingly upon the splendid 
decorations, the enlarged passages, that rendered the 
house, in aspect, entirely new. This season was remark- 
able for the first appearance in London of that inimitable 
droll, *' little Keeley." No less important was the d^but 
of Mrs. Waylett, one of the most charming singers and 
piquante actresses of the century, whom we have met in 
Tottenham Street. 

The Adelphi hitherto had excited scant notice from 
the Press, which in those days seldom deigned to note 
the doings of a minor theatre, while its audiences were 
chiefly drawn from the humblest classes. But during 
the season of 1821 it became the most popular house in 

It was during this year that a journalist of a very low 
type named Pierce Egan, who afterwards founded Belfs 
LifCy a writer whose pen was principally devoted to the 
reports of the prize-ring, in a sporting vernacular that 
was long peculiarly associated with pugilism, brought out 
a periodical work, with coloured plates by the two Cruik- 
shanks, entitled Tom and Jerry ; or. Life in London. 
Before the second number was published, Mr. Egan, 
whose style was the apotheosis of slang and vulgarity, 
found himself famous. It was one of those curious 
crazes which at times seize upon the public for some 
book, some play, or actor, whose merits are not in- 
frequently in the inverse ratio of its or his popularity. 
The publisher of this recherchi work was suddenly over- 
whelmed with orders, his shop was besieged by eager 
purchasers ; the press could not turn out copies fast 
enough, and a small army of women and children were 
employed day and night in colouring the engravings. 


With each number the madness increased ; pictures of 
Bob Logic, Corinthian Tom, and Jerry Hawthorn 
adorned every print and bookseller's window, everybody 
became Corinthian ; tailors advertised the Corinthian 
coat, the Corinthian pantaloons ; shoemakers made only 
the Corinthian shoe, and hatters filled their windows 
with the Corinthian hat. 

A dramatic version of the famous book was produced 
at the Adelphi; but, as it has happened to so many 
great stage successes, the piece was received on the first 
night with such hostility that Rodwell declared it should 
not be played again, and it was with great difficulty his 
partner induced him to alter his determination. How 
much reason he had to thank him for his advice is a 
matter of history. The cast was exceptionally good, 
his part fitting each actor like a glove. That excellent 
comedian, Wrench, was* the Tom; Reeve was Jerry; 
Wilkinson, Bob Logic Referring to this piece in his 
Experiences, Serjeant Ballantine says : ** A little un- 
known man who had been given some three lines to say 
contrived in doing so to create roars of laughter. His 
part was written up, and from that time to his death he 
was recognised as one of the most comic actors that ever 
delighted an audience. This was Robert Keeley." He 
played the small part of Jemmy Green. Even Wal- 
boum, who went on for Dusty Bob, and who had 
scarcely a line to speak, became a celebrity ; he took a 
tavern at Battle Bridge, and George Cruikshank 
painted the sign, representing him in his famous 
character. The author recorded his opinion that it was 
'' one of, if not the greatest triumph of histrionic art ever 
exhibited upon the stage ! " Kean declared that during 
the whole course of his theatrical career he had never 
seen any performance equal to it. This, of course, was 
2 E 


an exaggeration. Far more significant was the uncon- 
scious testimony of an actor of the day, who, while 
witnessing the performance from the front, exclaimed, 
" Good heavens ! is it possible ? It certainly is a real 
dustman they've got upon the stage. I am very sorry 
that our profession has sunk so low as to be compelled 
to go into the streets to get a person of that description 
to support the character!" And he left the house in 
disgust Nor was the actor the only one so deceived ; 
so life-like were the presentments of TattersalFs and its 
frequenters in the scene representing the famous 
repository at Hyde Park Corner, of Tom Cribb, the 
noted pugilist, and other sporting characters in Tom 
Cribb' s Parlour^ that bets were made that it was these 
notabilities themselves who nightly appeared upon the 

The piece ran through the remainder of the season, 
which was considerably more than a hundred nights, 
opened the next, and was revived again and again with 
unabated success ; nothing like it had ever been pre- 
viously known in theatrical annals, seats were taken 
weeks in advance, people made journeys from the re- 
motest parts of the country to witness it — ^and in the old 
stage-coach days that meant more than it does now — 
and five guineas were at times paid for one seat. The 
Puritans were up in arms; they stood at the theatre 
doors laden with tracts, which they tried to thrust into 
the hands of everyone who entered ; the serious Press 
inveighed against it, ministers denounced it from the 
pulpit, the Lord Chamberlain was petitioned to sup- 
press it; he went to the Adelphi to sit in judgment, 
saw, and enjoyed the piece so hugely, that he went 
again and took my lady with him. All opposition only 
swelled the success and made everyone more eager to 


see it. In 1822 there were ten theatres in and about 
London, to say nothing of the provinces, playing Tom 
and Jerry, and everywhere with the same success. 

For a time the high-falutin of tragedy, the artificial 
humours of comedy, the nightmares of melodrama were 
set aside, and Life in London was presented as it was, 
from Almack's in the West to All Max — the beggar's 
home — in the East ; from the ball of the opera to the 
dancing crib in Ratcliff Highway. No wonder it was 
successful. The man about town was curious to see 
how nearly the presentment of such scenes approached 
to the reality, while respectability — always eager to get 
a peep behind the curtain that conceals the forbidden — 
flocked to catch a glimpse of that naughty world it dared 
not visit in any other way. At the bottom of the bill 
was the following curious announcement : ** A facsimile 
of the treadmill, by a French artist in ivory work, drawn 
from his actual experience on the spot for the last three 
months ! " 

Life in London was followed by Green in France ; or^ 
Tom and Jerry's Tour, in which the two heroes were 
transported to Paris, and made to pass through a series 
of adventures illustrative of fast life in the French 
capital. But though it was produced in a far more 
elaborate and costly manner than its predecessor, like 
all sequels. Green in France proved a failure, and after 
being forced for thirty-five nights, was shelved, and 
Life in London revived. Another piece by Pierce 
Egan, The Life of an Actor, produced September 4th, 
1824, was more successful. It was a coarse burlesque 
upon the theatrical profession, its shifts, its poverty, its 
seamy and ridiculous side ; the thing chiefly owed its 
success to the farcical humour of John Reeve, in the 
part of Abraham Delawhang, in which he gave his 
imitations of contemporary actors. 


But the time was not ripe for the realistic, except as 
a change, and by-and-by a tremendous melodramatic 
spectacle, entitled Valmondi; or, the Unhallowed SeptU- 
chre, with a hero who had drunk of the elixir of life, 
an attendant demon, an auto-da-fi, and a catastrophe 
in the infernal regions, occupied the boards upon which 
Black Sal and Dusty Bob had recently performed their 
wonderful breakdown. This terrible drama had fatal 
consequences for one of the managers of the Adelphi ; 
a theatrical magazine for March, 1825, which announces 
the decease of Mr. Rodwell, informs us that *'the 
anxiety and fatigue he endured in arranging for the 
representation of the melodrama of Valmondi brought 
on the complaint which ended in his death." 

Jones immediately retired from the management, and 
on October loth the Adelphi opened under the 
direction of Terry and Yates. Both had been members 
of Drury Lane and Covent Garden companies, and 
Yates had made some mark at the former. Wrench, 
John Reeve, T. P. Cooke, Tyrone Power, who had 
joined in the previous year, Mrs. Fitzwilliam, and Miss 
Brunton, afterwards Mrs. Yates, were among the 
company engaged. Under the new management the 
Adelphi advanced rapidly in public favour and reputa- 
tion. Its first great hit was the dramatic^ version of 
Fenimore Cooper's famous novel. The Pilot. Fitzball, 
the adapter, shifted the odious and ridiculous parts 
assigned by the author to the British to the Yankees 
themselves ; and Scott tells us in his Diary (October 
2 1st, 1826) that "the Americans were so much dis- 
pleased that they attempted a row, which rendered the 
piece doubly attractive to the seamen of Wapping, who 
came up and crowded the house night after night to 
support the honour of the British flag." This will go a 


great way to account for the extraordinary run — extra- 
ordinary for those days — of two hundred nights, which 
The Pilot enjoyed. 

The great feature of the performance was T. P. 
Cooke's Long Tom Coffin. Cooke had served in the 
Royal Navy, and distinguished himself at the battle of 
St. Vincent. In 1804 he quitted the main-deck of a 
man-o'-war for the stage, and made his first appearance 
at the Royalty Theatre in Wellclose Square. He was 
afterwards a member of most of the metropolitan com- 
panies, including that of Drury Lane and the English 
Opera House, where we have met him. When, in 
1825, he appeared at the Adelphi he was an actor of 
considerable reputation, and in Coopers nautical hero 
presented upon the stage, probably for the first time, a 
real seaman. How Cooke acted the sailor is graphic- 
ally described in the following passage from the de- 
lightful Nodes Ambrosiana. 

^'Shepherd. But tell me. Sir, did you gang to see 
Mr. Tay Pay Cook in The Pilot ? 

^' North. The best sailor that ever trod the stage. 

''Shepherd. Do you ca* yon treddin' the stage? 
Yon's no treddin'. When he first loupit out o' the boat 
on dry laun', tryin' to steady himself on his harpoon, he 
garred me find the verra furm aneath me in the pit 
shovin' up and down as if the earth were lousen'd from 
her moorin's, I grew amaist sea-sick. 

'* North. Nothing overdone ; no bad bye play, blab- 
bing of the land-lubber ; not too much pulling up of the ' 
trousers ; no ostentatious display of pigtail ; one chunk 
of tobacco into his cheek without any perceptible chew, 
sufficient to show that next to grog quid is dear; no 
puling, no whining, when on some strong occasion he 
pipes his eye, but merely a slight choking of that full, 


deep, rich, mellow voice, symphonious, James, in all its 
keys with the ocean's, whether piping in the shrouds, or 
blowing great guns, running up, James, by way of 
pastime, the whole gamut; and then so much heart 
and soul, James, in minute particulars, justifying the 
most passionate exhibition when comes crisis or catas- 

''Shepherd. What for do you no mention the horn- 
pipe? I wad gie fifty pounds to be able to dance yon 
way. Faith I wad astonish them at Kirns. The way 
he twists the knees of him, and rins on his heels, and 
down to the floor wi' a wide spread-eagle amaist to his 
verra doup, up again like mad, and awa* off intil some 
ither nawtical movements : the hornpipe, bafilin' a' com- 
prehension as to its meaning and then all the while 
siccan' a face ! " 

Cooke's next great hit was Vanderdecken in the 
melodrama of The Flying Dutchman. His fine figure 
and expressive features, his skill in make-up and 
picturesqueness, imparted to his melodramatic panto- 
mime a wonderful power and vividness. 

In 1827 the Adelphi was again enlarged both before 
and behind the curtain. But at the latter end of 1828, 
wrecked in health and fortune, having lost all his own 
savings, ;^500 lent him by Ballantyne, and ;^ 1,2 50 for 
which his friend, Walter Scott, had pledged his credit, 
Terry retired from the partnership. He died in the 
following June. In the next season Charles Mathews 
joined Yates, paying ;^ 17,000 for a half-share. 

Some seasons previously Yates had appeared in a 
monologue entitled Sketches of Life and Character; the 
two partners now united in a duologue entertainment of a 
similar kind. Yates possessed great powers of mimicry 
as well as histrionic talent of a very high order ; he was 


equally at home as Alexander, the rou6 in Victorine^ as 
Mantalini in Nicholas Nicklebyy as the bold Miles 
Bertram in The Wreck Ashore, and as Quilp in The Old 
Curiosity Shop. During the next few years this house 
could boast of companies which made the name of the 
little minor theatre famous throughout the dramatic 
world. And yet, somehow, it could not be made to pay; 
whether it was badly managed, or managers lived beyond 
their means, or the public were not sufficiently liberal in 
their support, it would be difficult to determine. Yates, 
however, had a great friend in the Duchess of St. Albans 
(formerly Miss Mellon), who frequently came to his 

Mathews dying in 1835 a poor man, his son, Charles 
the younger, took his place, but retired at the end of the 
first season. Then Yates found another partner, a man 
named Gladstone, who ultimately became sole lessee, 
and succeeded in effecting what his far cleverer pre- 
decessors had failed in, making the house pay. Poor 
Yates died broken-hearted in 1842, in the very zenith of 
his powers, at the age of forty-seven. Edward Stirling 
tells a good story about him in Old Drury Lane^ which 
is worth repeating. During one of the Westminster 
elections he was seen by the mob entering the Tory 
polling booth. A cry was raised of ** Yates voting 
against us, oh, oh ! " The actor laid his hand upon his 
bosom, and vowed his heart was with them. 

** Ladies and gentlemen," he said, as soon as he could 
be heard, ** on this joyous occasion pray be merciful — 
on this my first appearance on a political stage, and I 
promise you the last. You may return Old Nick if you 
like ; my wish is ever to please my best supporters, the 

** Hurrah, bravo! give us * Jim Crow'!" shouted the 


mob. In an instant Yates, with the utmost sang-froid^ 
whistled the tune, danced a breakdown round the hust- 
ings, and wound up with singing — 

"Wheel about, 
Jump about. 
Vote just so ; 
Let your bobs 
Be spent 
Onmy « Jim Crow.'" 1 

His .wife, nde Brunton, the sister of the beautiful 
Louisa Brunton, afterwards Countess of Craven, was an 
incomparable heroine of melodrama, and an excellent 
actress of high- class comedy as well. She had made 
her London d6but at Covent Garden, in 1817, as Letitia 
Hardy with brilliant success; as Violante {The Wonder)^ 
Beatrice, Rosalind, Olivia, and Miss Hardcastle she was 
admirable, reminding the old playgoers of her time of 
Mrs. Abington and Miss Farren. Mrs. Yates survived 
her husband nearly twenty years. 

Madame Celeste made her first appearance at the 
Adelphi in 1833, in St, Marys Eve. In the same year the 
house sustained a great loss by the early death of John 
Reeve. Fortunately, an excellent successor was at hand 
in Edward Wright, who had just made a great success 
at the St. James's.^ Wright worthily took the position 
that had been occupied by Liston and Reeve. His Paul 
Pry was little, if at all, inferior to the original representa- 
tive's. As a farce actor he was inimitable, especially in 
The Spitalsfields Weaver and Domestic Economy, The 

^ Rice, an American actor, in the thirties, was the first to introduce the 
nigger upon the English stage at this theatre, in the character of Jim Crow, 
and his then novel song and dance was for a time the rage in town and 

' His first appearance in London was at the Tottenham Street Theatre, 


actor who afterwards made the nearest approach to his 
drollery was George Honey. Edmund Yates, in his 
autobiography, relates how, in the helpless exhaustion of 
inextinguishable laughter, he has fallen a limp mass 
across the ledge of the boxes at the Adelphi at the 
irresistible fooling of this comedian, and the writer of 
these pages can recall similar experiences. Whenever 
Wright came upon the stage he brought with him an 
atmosphere of laughter, that alike infected audience 
and actors, for actors could no more resist the in- 
fection than could the spectators ; I have seen the action 
of a scene brought to a standstill while those on the 
stage were endeavouring to swallow the risibility that 
choked them. Yet his humour was totally devoid of 
effort ; if you ever thought of asking yourself why you 
held your aching sides and wiped your streaming eyes, 
you found the question rather difficult to answer. His 
costume was seldom what could be called outri, when we 
remember that the fine gentlemen of comedy then 
attired themselves in light blue coats, salmon-coloured 
trousers, and pink waistcoats ; his make-up was more 
that of a light than a low comedian ; he was not much 
given to grimace, yet he had but to twiddle his eyeglass 
and assume that intense look of utter surprise which 
accompanied his "Bless my soul, you don't say so ?" and 
your " face crumpled up like a damp towel." 

But it must be confessed that he was coarse, terribly 
coarse. When Charles Kean engageJi him for the 
Princess's, the more fastidious audience of Oxford Street 
would not tolerate his freedom of speech, and for two or 
three years he received fifty pounds a week without 
appearing on the stage. Buckstone paid him that salary 
to play a farce after midnight at the Haymarket. But 
he was a fountain of spontaneous humour, a source of 


inexhaustible laughter. He was never, however, really 
at home except at the Adelphi. 

Wright had an excellent coadjutor in Paul Bedford ; 
but Paul was only a foil, a pantaloon to Wright s clown ; 
a remarkably fine voice rendered him invaluable in 
burlesque, while his enormous bulk was a natural source 
of fun. Authors wrote only skeleton parts for these 
two inveterate "gaggers," who, after a while, usually 
abandoned the text altogether and trusted to their own 
resources. Paul Bedford's two greatest hits were Jack 
Gong in The Green Bushes, in which his "I believe you, 
my boy," became the cant phrase of the day, and Blue- 
skin mjack Sheppard, 

And that brings me to another famous Adelphi 
success, the dramatic version of Ainsworth's noted novel, 
in 1840, which created scarcely less sensation than Torn 
and ferry. Paul Bedford's singing of " Jolly Nose " was 
one of the great attractions of the drama. Mrs. Keeley 
must have made the most delightful of housebreakers. 
She was an actress of wonderful variety, since she could 
equally delight audiences in prison-breaking Jack, poor 
Smike, Little Nell, Dot, and the slaveys of broad farce. 
Jack Sheppardh^cdsa^ the popular craze. It crowded the 
Adelphi ; versions of it were brought out at half a dozen 
theatres, and everybody was chaunting — 
" Nix, my dolly pals, fake away ! " 

The Chadbands were again up in arms, advertising by 
their invectives the thing they condemned ; the Press 
took up a severely moral tone, and so much pressure 
was brought to bear upon the Lord Chamberlain that 
by-and-by the piece was interdicted. 

In 1844, Madame Celeste, in partnership with Benja- 
min Webster, became lessee of the Adelphi, and those 
fine artistes divided their services between the Hay- 


market, of which Webster was then lessee, and the 
Strand. Celeste, though the range of her characters was 
very wide, is now chiefly remembered by her association 
with a school of plays which were known by the phrase 
of " The Adelphi Drama," though several were produced 
at the Haymarket. Nearly all of them were written by 
Buckstone, who, when he migrated from the Surrey, 
for which he had written several pieces, to the Adelphi 
in 1829 or 1830, became the stock playwright of the 
Strand house. The first of the series of dramas was 
The Wreck AsAore, in which Yates and Mrs. Yates, 
O'Smith, and Mrs. Fitzwilliam acted. Vtctoriney an 
adaptation from the French, gave the Yateses two 
powerful parts. Mrs. Stirling made her first appearance 
at the West End in The Dream at Sea^ in the part of 
Biddy Nutts, 1836. These dramas followed on the lines 
of the ordinary fiction of the period ; the language was 
stilted, the plots were ultra-sentimental, the heroes and 
heroines immaculate, the villains of the deepest dye, but 
they were very effective lay figures in their day.^ The 
best known are Green Bushes^ 1845, and The Flowers of 
the Forest^ 1849, in which, as Miami and Cynthia, 
Madame Celeste had her finest opportunities. Those 
who saw her only in her latter days play Miami could 
form no conception of what she had been in her prime, 
of the grace, the picturesqueness of her pantomime, the' 
intensity of love, hate, revenge that she threw into her 
delineation of the Indian girl. It was in the portrayal 
of wild, passionate, half-savage natures that she chiefly 

^ It is curious to note the enormous difference in the remuneration 
received by dramatic authors in those days and in these. Buckstone was 
the author of 1 50 dramas, comedies, and farces ; he was paid only £fio for a 
three-act drama, though he afterwards raised the price tOjfyo and ;£io for 
provincial rights during a twelvemonth ; while a certain living writer of 
melodramas has received in fees as much as ;£ 10,000 for a single piece. 


An attempt was made to revive The Flowers of the 
Forest some years ago, but the audience laughed at what 
they called the old-fashioned twaddle. And as it was 
then interpreted they were not far wrong. But when 
Mrs. Fitzwilliam^ was Starlight Bess, Miss Woolgar/^ 
Lemuel, O'Smith; Ishmael the Wolf, and Buckstone and 
Paul Bedford, Cheap Jack and the Kinchin, it was quite 
a different thing, and, with such a caste, and the text 
modernised, would tell almost as powerfully upon an 
Adelphi audience now as it did half a century ago. 

Again, modern melodrama with all its striking effects 
has given us nothing more picturesque than the last 
scene of that same drama, in which Cynthia,* cast out 
from her tribe, is made by her father to expiate the death 
of Lemuel by her own self-immolation ; the wild scene, 
the picturesque groups of gipsies lit up by the smoky- 
glare of the torches, and now and again illumined by- 
flashes of lightning, the powerful acting of the terrible 
O 'Smith, the awful intensity yet the exquisite beauty of 
Celeste's every utterance and movement, so admirably 
contrasted with the silent agony of Starlight Bess, 
formed quite a Salvator Rosa picture. Alfred Mellon, 
the conductor of the theatre, who afterwards married 
Miss Woolgar, composed some delightfully appropriate 
music for the action, which added greatly to the effect. 

As a delineator of the terrors of melodrama, O'Smith 
was scarcely inferior to T. P. Cooke. No doubt we 
should think him shockingly conventional and unreal 
nowadays, but he had real power and intensity, together 

^ Mrs. Fitzwilliam, who was identified with Buckstone's management, 
was one of the most delightful comic actresses of her day. But it was the 
touch of true pathos, which is the gift of all real humorists, that rendered 
her Nelly O'Neill, in Green Bushes^ and Starlight Bess so striking. She 
died about 1856. 

^ Miss Woolgar made her first appearance at the Adelphi in 1843. 


with an intuitive sense of the picturesque. In one of 
the old dramas, I believe it was Peter Belly he played 
the part of a drunkard, and in one scene he had to upset 
a cup of liquor; with a cry of horror he cast himself upon 
the stage and ravenously licked up the spilled drink. It 
was one of those daring bits of business that only a 
strong actor, confident in his own power, would have 
dared attempt ; had it been weakly done it would have 
raised a laugh ; as he did it, it sent a shudder through 
the house. His death-scene of the pirate, Grampus, in 
The Wreck Ashore was a wonderful piece of melo- 
dramatic acting; the ghastly face peering in at the 
window of the room where the two girls are alone, the 
moving of the latch by the invisible hand, the firing 
of the gun by the heroine, and that terrible figure, 
ragged and emaciated, falling in through the doorway 
death-stricken. It was grim, horrible if you will, but 
it was picturesque, intense and imaginative, and there- 
fore could not be revolting. 

And this high-priest of terror was in private life a 
very mild, middle-aged gentleman, with a hobby for 
collecting butterflies. Was it not a curious con- 
tradiction ? 

In 1853, Webster retired from the Haymarket and 
devoted himself entirely to the Adelphi, with which he 
was thereafter to be solely identified. The Buckstone 
vein of melodrama was by this time pretty well ex- 
hausted, and a new series of a higher order followed, 
with which the names of Charles Reade, Tom Taylor, 
Watts Philips, and Dion Boucicault are associated; 
among the most notable of these plays may be named 
Masks and Faces} Two Loves and a Life, The Poor 

^ Masks and Faces was first played at the Haymarket, 1852 ; it was 
revived here and became a stock play. 


Strollers, The Dead Hearty in all of which Webster, and 
in most Celeste, greatly distinguished themselves. 

Webster was an actor of consummate ability, and 
would have been an acquisition even to the Com6die 
Franjaise in its best days. He had greater variety than 
perhaps any other actor of his generation. What a 
seemingly impassable interval there was between the 
broad humour of the Somersetshire ploughman, Giles, in 
The Queensberry Fite^ and the slimy, snake-like hypo- 
crite Tartuffe — a splendid performance ; or the callous 
drunkard Richard Pride and that most charming of his 
creations, Triplet. Richard Pride is only a very ordinary 
melodramatic part, but as played by Webster it was an 
elaborate psychological study; Richard Pride is drunk 
almost throughout the play, but there was no monotony 
in Webster's performance, for in each scene he gave a 
different phase of the vice. Yet, with fine artistic skill, 
though he could not help rendering the picture repulsive, 
he always avoided making it brutal. Janet was another 
of Celeste's most powerful performances. I can re- 
member nothing more thrilling than her agony after she 
had left her child at the Foundling, her frantic cries as 
she tore at the walls to try and get it back again. 

No other actor has played Triplet with the subtlety of 
Webster ; the poor dramatist is only a strolling player 
after all, though with the soul of a gentleman beneath 
his vanity and bombast, and this Webster showed 
distinctly. Bancroft, undoubtedly the best exponent of 
the part after the original, failed to convey this impres- 
sion ; he was too much the broken-down gentleman 
throughout, while Beerbohm Tree was too lacrymose, 
missing the hopeful Bohemian spirit, to whom the gift of 
a guinea would open heavens of delight. 

Robert Landry in The Dead Heart was another of 


Webster's masterpieces ; the scene in which he was 
brought out of the Bastille with brain and body 
paralysed, the gradual awakening of consciousness and 
memory, acted only by facial expression, would keep the 
house riveted in dead silence for minutes. Irving s 
Robert Landry would not bear comparison with the 
original. There is only one reading of the part, and 
that was Webster's ; it would not bear modernising nor 
attempts at originality. 

It was by the acting, and the acting only, that the old 
Adelphi won its fame ; little care or expense was 
bestowed upon mounting its pieces ; its dresses were 
usually shabby, and its scenes and sets were little 
elaborated, while its supers passed into a byword, 
"Adelphi guests." .Ill-health having compelled Wright 
to retire in 1858, J. L. Toole, at the recommendation of 
Charles Dickens, was installed in his place, and made 
his first appearance here in Good for Nothing. A year 
or two afterwards he played Spriggins in Id on parle 
Franfais, perhaps the most famous of all his parts. 

In the early summer of the same year the old house, 
that had become a veritable dust-hole, was pulled down, 
and a new and more spacious building rose in its place, 
which was opened on Boxing Night in the same year. 
Most of the famous actors who had made its fame had 
passed away, or did not long survive the change. Mrs. 
Fitzwilliam, O'Smith, Tyrone Power, the great Irish 
actor, were dead ; Mrs. Yates had retired many years 
previously, Wright was seen no more, Madame Celeste 
remained only a short time, in consequence of disagree- 
ment with the management, and of the famous company 
soon Webster himself, Mrs. Mellon (Miss Woolgar), 
and Paul Bedford were the only representatives. 

The new Adelphi made a promising beginning with 


The Colleen Bawtiy the first of the sensational dramas, 
that is to say, the first drama in which a striking 
mechanical effect was the principal attraction, and the 
first serious drama in which the actor became of secondary 
importance to the mechanist and scene-painter. There 
had been shaking waters and rolling billows and other 
watery effects before the cavern scene of The Colleen 
Bawfty chief among which was the famous rolling wave 
in Acts and Galatea at Drury Lane in Macready's time ; 
but transparent stage-water had never before been seen, 
and a few yards of blue gauze did more than all the 
finest acting in the world could have accomplished, 
it filled the Adelphi for hundreds of nights, it filled the 
treasuries of provincial managers, it sent people to the 
theatre that had never been before, and it made the 
fortune of the author. Yet it is said that he was not 
actually the inventor of the wonderful thing, but that 
the idea first occurred to an old stage carpenter while he 
was constructing the scene. 

Nevertheless the piece was well acted. Myles-na- 
Coppeleen was, with Shaun the Post, Boucicault's best 
part ; Mrs. Boucicault was a charming Colleen Bawn ; 
Falconer was the Danny Mann ; and it could not have 
been better played ; indeed, every part was almost perfect 
in its way, and the drama was very cleverly constructed. 
But there is no denying that, but for the blue gauze, 
The Colleen Bawn might not have run twenty nights. 

Boucicault had treated the Adelphi audiences to 
water in his first essay in the sensational school ; in 
his next, The Octoroony produced in November, 1861, 
he gave them fire. 

At this time there were only two kinds of theatrical, 
entertainment the public would patronise — the sensa- 
tional and the burlesque — and the metropolitan theatres, 


with one or two exceptions, were divided between the 
pair. As the person who brought the grist to the mill, 
Boucicault soon became the paramount power at the 
Adelphi ; an excellent stage manager and a stern re- 
former, he certainly did considerable service in sweeping 
away the cobwebs of antiquated tradition which had 
nowhere gathered thicker than here ; and he must be 
coupled with Fechter and the Bancrofts as among the 
pioneers in the reform of the English stage. 

The OctorooUy however, did not rival its predecessor 
in attraction, and the audience was sent through fire 
and water after a time, that is to say, the two sensations 
were given nightly. A wretched piece called Grimaldi ; 
or, the Life of an Actress, and a new version of the old 
drama of The Vampire called The Phantom, in which 
the author enacted an Irish ghost, who could only 
be brought back to a corporeal state by being laid in 
"the moonbames," afterwards supplemented The Octo- 
roon, but with, only doubtful success. A quarrel between 
the two partners sent Boucicault to Drury Lane. 

The Dead Heart, however, more than compensated 
by its popularity for the withdrawal of the great Dion. 
Miss Avonia Jones, Gustavus Brooke's widow, now 
varied the reign of melodrama by classical tragedy, and 
made some impression as Medea. In the autumn of 
1863 the Adelphi scored a most emphatic success by 
the appearance of Miss Bateman in an adaptation of 
a German play called Deborah, rechristened Leah. It 
was a gloomy and monotonous work, but the actress 
gave so powerful and original a rendering of the central 
figure that it took with the public at once ; gauze waters, 
burning ships, railway accidents, stone quarries, were all 
forgotten, and for 210 nights everybody rushed to 
shudder and weep over the wrongs and to thrill at the 
2 F 


awful curse of the vengeful and broken-hearted Jewess. 
Miss Bateman came to us from America, though she 
had appeared with her sister in London as a sort of 
juvenile phenomenon as early as 1850. 

After a tour in the provinces, Miss Bateman returned 
to the Adelphi in 1865, and opened as Julia in The 
Hunchbcuk ; but she was essentially a one-part actress, 
and failed to convince the playgoers as Knowles s dis- 
agreeable heroine. Married in 1866, she took a formal 
leave of the stage at Her Majesty's Theatre, and, as a 
matter of course, returned to it two years afterwards. 

The next great attraction at the Adelphi was Joseph 
Jefferson, who opened there as Rip Van Winkle, Sep- 
tember 4th, 1865. No truer, more pathetic, or purely 
artistic piece of acting, within its limits, has ever been 
seen upon the English stage than Jefferson's rendering 
of Washington Irving s vagabond hero, and it is satis- 
factory to reflect that without any meretricious effects, 
without a suspicion of the least pandering to degraded 
tastes, it crowded the house for 172 nights. 

Fechter was here in 1868, when No Thoroughfare 
was produced, furnishing the great French actor with 
one of the most remarkable of his impersonations, and 
Webster with his last original character, Joey Ladle 
Previous to this, in the same year, a version of Monte 
Cristo was brought out, with a cast exceptionally fine, 
including George Belmore, Mrs. Leigh ftfurray, Fechter, 
Webster, Carlotta Leclercq, Miss Woolgar, Arthur 
Stirling, Henry Ashley, Tom Stuart ; but it was a 
failure. In the autumn of 1870, Webster, having fallen 
into difficulties, took Chatterton into partnership, and 
the theatre was announced to be under their joint 

Two years later, after a reign of twenty-eight years. 


Webster finally retired, upon a rental paid him by 
Chatterton, whose name now appeared alone at the head 
of the bills. Fechter played his last engagement in 
England here in the same year ; and Madame Celeste, 
alas, reappeared upon the scene of her former triumphs, 
only to sadden old playgoers by comparisons between 
the past and present, and to excite the incredulity of 
younger ones. And this was not her last appearance ; 
again at the end of 1874 she exhibited the wreck of her 
fine powers to an unsympathising audience. 

During these years there is little worth recording in 
the annals of the Adelphi ; revivals of old successes, 
with a sprinkling of new plays, Irish and otherwise, and 
a short season of English opera under Carl Rosa in 
1 873, when The Merry Wives of Windsor was produced, 
chiefly distinguished the Chatterton management; a 
remarkable run was achieved in the last-named year 
with Burnand*s Proof, admirably cast. After Chatter- 
ton's downfall the theatre fell into the hands of a marine- 
store dealer named Clark, and the glory of the old house 
seemed to have indeed departed. I must not omit to 
mention the very great success s^chieved by Bouci- 
cault s Irish drama, The Shaughraun, which had a very 
long run. 

The Gatti regime, however, that started in 1879, was 
destined to resuscitate its fortunes, though its inaugura- 
tion was very ominous. Handsomely redecorated and 
reconstructed, it opened with a melodrama called The 
Crimson Cross, for which Hermann Vezin, Henry Neville, 
Adelaide Neilson were engaged. But the first night 
was one of the cruellest fiascoes I have ever witnessed. 
There was a dead set against the play, which was 
literally hooted, though I have heard worse well ap- 
plauded. Revivals and new plays followed, supported 


by the same *' star " company, but with no great results. 
Charles Warner, whose energy and breadth of style were 
excellently suited to the house, was leading man for 
some time, appearing as Michael Strogoff, Richard 
Pride, and Tom Robinson. 

But, perhaps, the first assured success was Henr)' 
Pettit's Taken from Life, December, 1881. Pettit was 
an \dit,2X playwright in the exact sense of the word ; he 
was destitute of literary form, his dialogue was utterly 
commonplace, his characters mere lay figures, but he 
had a knack of constructing plots out of ancient con- 
ventions, of dressing up telling situations, and an un- 
erring eye for stage effect that appealed more strongly 
to the general public than would any work of genius. 
It mattered nothing that he used the same stories, 
situations, and puppets, with slight variations, over and 
over again ; people flocked to see his dramas, and were as 
delighted with the richauffi, nay, far more so, than if it 
had been the most startling novelty; for the ordinary 
playgoer loves to anticipate the end of the story, and is 
dissatisfied if the author prove too cunning for him. 

Edwin Booth w^s here in 1882, and made some im- 
pression in The Fool's Revenge, his Bertuccio being a 
very powerful performance. In the next year G. R. 
Sims first co-operated with Pettit, and In The Ranks 
was their joint production. The partnership proved a 
phenomenal success, and was carried on until death dis- 
solved it. Dramas by Wilkie Collins, Robert Buchanan, 
Charles Reade, Comyns Carr, H addon Chambers, well 
acted, perfectly mounted, were produced, but none 
pleased like the Pettit and Sims mixture. William 
Terriss succeeded Warner as leading man, and in such 
dramas as The Union Jack, The Silver Falls, rendered 
himself a supreme favourite ; his handsome person, 


bold, breezy, aggressive style exactly fitting him for the 
heroes of Adelphi melodrama. In 1889 he made a trip 
to America, and on his return went to Drury Lane with 
Paul KauvaTy afterwards rejoining the Lyceum company. 
His place at the Adelphi was filled in the interim by 
George Alexander, Kyrle Belle w, Charles Warner, 
Henry Neville. When, after an absence of three or 
four years, he returned to the Gattis, his vogue in The 
Swordsman s Daughter, Boys Together, In the Days of 
the Duke, and other dramas, was greater than ever. 
Pettit's death and Terris's cruel assassination, December, 
1897, inflicted a fatal blow upon Adelphi drama. Mrs.. 
Brown -Potter and Kyrle Bellew were here in 1898 
with Charlotte Corday. Gillette made a great success 
in Secret Service, and a less in The Heart of Maryland. 
Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet here in 1899. 

The old house was pulled down, and rebuilt with an 
extended frontage and handsome auditorium, and re- 
opened by Mr. Tom Davis as the Century Theatre, 
on September 7th, 1901, with an American variety 
show. The Whirl of the Town. But the town would 
have none of it, and the outcry against the barbarous 
new name brought back, in the following year, the time- 
honoured " Adelphi." The latest productions have 
been The Arizona; Sapho, 1902, in which Olga 
Nethersole made a great hit by her powerful perform- 
ance of Daudet's heroine. The Christian King, 1902, 
with Wilson Barrett, was not a successor to 7*^5? Sign of 
the Cross, and a stage version of Captain Kettle did 
not rival the popularity . of the novel. Pending the 
appearance of Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, last summer, 
the management called in the most lurid of East End 
dramas. Yet The Worst Woman in London and Her 
Second Time on Earth, which might have been predicted 


would be ghastly failures, proved what might be called 
un succh de curiositL 

The old and the new Adelphi drama is seemingly 
played out, and the future of this theatre is problematical. 

XpE WEST LONDON, 183I-I903. 

In 1 83 1 a theatre was opened in Church Street, 
Marylebone, and called the New Royal Sussex. A 
few years afterwards it was renamed the Royal Pavilion 
Theatre, West, and in 1837, the Royal Marylebone. 
It was for several years under the management of 
John Douglass, and for some part of his time was 
little better than a show. An attempt was made in 
1847 to regenerate the house when, under the name 
of the Theatre Royal, Marylebone, it was for a short 
time directed by Mrs. Warner, the Drury Lane actress ; 
but her efforts were unsuccessful. E. T. Smith was 
manager in 1852, and J. W. Wallack in the next year. 
It was in 1858 that Mr. J. W. Cave commenced an 
association with the house which, on and off, lasted for 
many years. In 1864 it was rebuilt and enlarged so as 
to hold 2,000 persons, and became the western home of 
East End melodrama. The name of the house was once 
more changed, to the Royal Alfred, in 1866, and a better 
style of entertainment was attempted. Charles Harcourt 
was the manager for a while, and he brought the com- 
pany from the Queen's, under Miss Henrietta Hodson, 
to play a' short engagement here. But four years later 
the Royal Alfred was again known as the Marylebone, 
and the natives of Paddington were once more treated 
to their old bill of fare. Within the last few years the 
house has been handsomely rebuilt, and is now known 
asjhe West London, but it still adheres to its old line — 
sensational drama. 


The Strand and the Royalty— A Chapter on Burlesque — 
The Strand, 1 832-1903. 

" ^ I "HE little theatre '* in the Strand stands upon the 
X site of a building that, from 1820 to 1828, was 
occupied, first by Reinagle and Barker s, and afterwards 
by Burford's Panorama. When Burford removed his 
exhibition to Leicester Square, the premises were con- 
verted into a temporary chapel by some wandering 
sectarians, who, after two or three years, departed else- 
where. It was towards the close of 1831 that Benjamin 
Lionel Rayner, a celebrated impersonator of Yorkshire 
characters, upon whom it was said John Emery's mantle 
had fallen, and supposed to have been afterwards the 
celebrated "Joe Muggins' Dog" of the Era, assisted by 
one Captain Bell, a turfite, and a Mr. Galbraith, who 
exhibited as a conjurer under the name of Henry, set 
about transforming the place into a small theatre. The 
alterations being completed in seven weeks, it was 
opened on January 25th, 1832, as **Rayner's New Sub- 
scription Theatre in the Strand," but was soon afterwards 
christened the **New Strand Theatre." The house 
was not licensed, and money was taken by the sale of* 
tickets at an office outside the door. 

It was just at the time that the disputes between the 
patent and the minor theatres were at their ac^test 
stage, the latter daily growing bolder and more denant, 



and the opening piece was a skit upon the theatrical 
situation, entitled Professionals Puzzled; or. Struggles 
at Starting; this was followed by Mystification, a trifle 
written for Mrs. Waylett, and The Millers Maid, in 
which Rayner appeared in his famous part of Giles, 
concluded the programme. The interior of the theatre 
was tastefully fitted up ; the decorations were white and 
gold, with silver pillars. The prices were four shillings, 
three shillings, two shillings, there being no gallery. 

A few weeks after it opened the house was announced 
as being under the sole management of Mrs. Waylett, 
who, no doubt, found the money to keep the concern 
going. Here she introduced her usual light style of 
entertainment, musical farce and extravaganza, in which 
her delightful singing and piquante acting were the chief 
attraction. But it was the old story that I have told 
again and again, there was no public support, and on 
the second Saturday in November the new theatre was 
abruptly closed. 

In the February of 1833 the doors were reopened, 
and Fanny Kelly gave her monologue entertainment, 
"Dramatic Recollections, with Studies of Character," 
another imitation of Mathews's " At Home " ; but it was 
an utter failure. In October, Wrench and Russell 
attempted a dramatic* season ; at the end of the first 
week the Lord Chamberlain, stirred up by the patentees, 
closed the house. In 1834, Mrs. Waylett s name again 
appeared • at the head of the bill as sole lessee, and 
beneath was printed "Admission gratis." Every kind 
of expedient was resorted to in order to evade the law ; 
at an adjoining confectioner s, people paid four shillings 
for an ounce of lozenges, and were presented with a box 
tick^; while with half an ounce of peppermint 4rops, 
for which two shillings were given, was handed a ticket 


for the pit. An arrangement was then made with 
Glossop, of the Victoria, and the public were informed at 
the bottom of the playbill that by purchasing a ticket 
for the Victoria they would obtain a free admission for 
the Strand. An Indian chief and his squaw were 
engaged. Mrs. Nisbett "starred'* here. New dramas, 
new musical pieces, new travesties were produced and 
acted by a good stock company, among which we find 
the names of Miss P. Horton and Oxberry. A great 
hit was made by a burlesque upon Manfred by Gilbert 
k Beckett, entitled Man Fred, in which Byron's hero 
was turned into a mysterious and melancholy chimney- 
sweep, and Astarte, played by Priscilla Horton, was 
rechristened Annie Starkie. But in March, 1835, the 
Lord Chamberlain swooped down upon the defiers of 
his authority, shut the theatre, and fined the actors. 

In the next year, however, the New Strand was 
placed on the same footing as the Olympic and Adelphi, 
and then (May ist) passed into the hands of Douglas 
Jerrold and his brother-in-law, James Hammond, a 
burlesque actor of considerable talent. The partnership 
lasted only a few months. Though a dramatic author, 
theatres, at least behind the scenes, were distasteful to 
Jerrold ; perhaps he had seen too much of them in his 
young days, when his father was the manager of what 
was known as the '* Kent circuit," which included Deal, 
Sheerness, and other small towns. Nor was the Strand 
speculation fortunate enough to overcome such prejudices, 
though probably his share in it did not extend beyond 
the productions of his pen. 

At the dissolution of the partnership, Hammond spoke 
an address, evidently written by Jerrold, which throws 
considerable light upon the affairs of the theatre ^ this 
time. " We began with a tragic drama, The Painter of 


Ghent'' he says ; ** but as the aspect of the boxes and pit 
was much more tragic than we could wish, we, in sailors' 
phrase, ' let go the painter.* We tried something like a 
ballet, which after a few nights (but purely out of mercy 
to the reputations of Taglioni and Perrot) we withdrew. 
We found that our legs were not very good, and so we 
resolved to produce comedy of words and character ; in 
other phrase, mistrusting our legs, we resolved hence- 
forth only to stand upon our heads." Jerrold, under the 
nom de plume of Henry Brownrigg, wrote many short 
pieces for the little stage within a few months — The Bill 
Sticker; Hercules^ King of Clubs; The Perils of 
Pippins ; or, an Old House in the City ; and lastly, the 
one-act tragedy, The Painter of Ghent. His Drury 
Lane success. The Rent Day, was also played here. In 
The Painter he himself acted the hero, but his success 
was not marked, and after a fortnight he quitted the 
stage, never again to appear upon it until those famous 
days of "splendid strolling" with Dickens, Forster, 
Mark Lemon. 

Hammond was manager of the New Strand up to 
1839, when, unfortunately for himself, he was tempted 
by the offer of a low rental to venture upon Drury Lane. 
His greatest hit was a travesty, called Othello, according 
to Act of Parliament, in which was reflected the 
struggles of the management to meet the requisitions of 
the law. Hammond *s Othello, *'an independent nigger 
from the Republic of Hayti," was a very striking per- 
formance, and Harry ^Hall's I ago was equally happy. 
A gallery, capable of holding 800 people, was now added 
to the auditorium, and the prices were lowered to three 
shillings, one shilling and sixpence, and one shilling, 
with half-price to all parts. In regard to the entertain- 
ment provided, Dickens s novels, then in all the freshness 


of their first issue, were freely laid under contribution. 
A dramatic version of the Pickwick Papers was brought 
out under the title of Sam Weller in the year of publi- 
cation, and Nicholas Nickleby followed in 1839 ; drama, 
however, was almost invariably supplemented by ex- 

We next find the conjurer Jacobs in possession of the 
house. In 1841 the name of Harry Hall heads the bills, 
and the Keeleys are starring here, and Mrs. Stirling is 
playing Aline, a version of Linda di Chamouni. As 
soon as the novel of Martin Ckuszlewit appears, the 
paste-and-scissors dramatist of the theatre lays his claws 
upon it. Then there is an attempt at tragedy, which 
upon that stage must have been very ludicrous. But 
from Shakespeare the management has quickly to de- 
scend to Bos-Jesmen and General Tom Thumb ! Fox 
Cooper is the lessee in 1847, ^ind reduces the prices, 
to stalls, three shillings ; boxes, one-and-sixpence ; pit, 
one shilling; and gallery, fourpence. Oxberry is 
manager in the following year, and Edward Hoopers 
name succeeds his with significant rapidity. 

After performing at the Strand as a star for a few 
weeks, William Farren took the house (1848). This 
is the first notable event in the history of the theatre. 
The Clandestine Marriage, The Road to Ruin, The Love 
Chase, and other comedies were given here with Farren, 
Mrs. Glover, Mrs. Stirling, Leigh Murray and his wife, 
Mrs. Alfred Philips, Compton, Henry Farren, and 
Diddear in the principal parts ; comedies were varied by 
the inevitable extravaganzas, and one or two pretty 
domestic dramas by Mark Lemon. Mrs. Stirling made 
a success as Adrienne Lecouvreur in The Reigning 
Favourite, a translation of the French play, even after 
Rachel had recently appeared in the character. The 


Vicar of Wakefield, with Faxren as Dr. Primrose, Mrs. 
Stirling as Olivia, and Mrs. Glover as Mrs. Primrose, 
was a very fine performance. It was just at the end 
of Mrs. Glovers career, it was her last engagement. 
Farren left the Strand for the Olympic in 1850. 

William Copeland, a Liverpool manager, tried his 
fortune here in the next year, and rechristened the 
theatre ** Punch's Playhouse." Many familiar names 
appear in the playbills at this time — Walter Lacy, 
Charles Selby, Tom Robertson, Charlotte Saunders, 
Mrs. Selby, Edward Stirling; drama and burlesque 
were the staple fare. But a couple of seasons were 
sufficient for Mr. Copeland. 

He was followed by AUcroft, the box-keeper of Bond 
Street, and in 1853, Miss Rebecca Isaacs, the well- 
known vocalist, was directress under that gentleman. 
Operas were now tried, among others Der Frieschiltz. 
Then came Barry Sullivan, who had just been playing 
at the Haymarket, in Shakespeare. AUcroft, in partner- 
ship with Payne, continued to manage the Strand until 
1856, when the latter took the whole responsibility upon 
himself, and brought the theatre to the very lowest ebb. 
Leicester Buckingham's name headed the bill during 
the season of 1857. 

No theatrical speculation in London seemed more 
hopeless, when, in February, 1858, the Strand was 
undertaken by W. H. Swanborough, whose name, 
however, for pecuniary reasons, almost immediately 
gave place in the bills to that of his daughter. Miss 
Swanborough, a very charming actress, and a favourite 
at the Haymarket. At last, after five-and-twenty years 
of much cloud and little sunshine, the house was to 
enter upon a career of prosperity, and for that it was 
chiefly indebted to the pen of the late H. J. Byron, with 


whose burlesque, Fra Diavolo, the management secured 
an initial success. 

The Strand has been more faithful to its earliest 
traditions than most other houses. From the first it 
was a home of burlesque, and with no other theatre, 
save the Gaiety, is that species of dramatic composition 
so thoroughly identified. 

English burlesque goes back to the days of Beaumont's 
Knight of the Burning Pestle and the famous Rehearsal. 
But it was Fielding who first introduced that medley of 
song, dance, and absurdity which we now identify with 
the name ; and Fielding took his inspiration from The 
Beggar's Opera; Gays celebrated Newgate pastoral 
may be likewise regarded as the originator of the old 
English comic opera of Bickerstaff and Dibdin, and, 
indeed, of all the dramatic "musical melanges" that 
since that day have held a foremost place in the favour 
of our theatrical audiences. Kane O' Harass Midas was 
in the late Mrs. Howard Pauls repertory, Apollo, with 
the beautiful song " Pray Goody," having always been a 
favourite with English cantatrices. Henry Carey, the 
author of ** Sally in our Alley," wrote several extrava- 
ganzas, and Bombastes has not long ceased to be a 
favourite with amateurs. Travesties of Shakespeare 
were common enough seventy and eighty years ago, 
but they were of a rough, coarse type, and it was not 
until the rise of Planch^ that a more elegant turn was 
given to these trifles. 

The supreme geniuses of the Planch^ school of extra- 
vaganza, Madame Vestris and Mrs. Waylett, however, 
had passed away, and with them much of the aroma 
they used to impart to those dainty trifles ; as audiences 
became more mixed, a stronger flavouring was required 
for the coarser palates. The hour had struck for some- 


thing new, and the man was there to supply it, a 
struggling young author just rising into fame, who 
boldly carved out a path for himself. He took the 
transpontine drama — of the ludicrous exaggeration of 
which the north side of the Thames was far from being 
free — as the butt at which to shoot his shafts of ridicule ; 
the brigand in six-tab tunic and buckled belt stuck all 
round with daggers and pistols, and basket-hilted swords, 
with combats to music, the heavy father always invoking 
his grey hairs, and given alternately to cursing and 
blessing, the village maiden walking through frost and 
snow in silk stockings and sandalled shoes, of which 
playgoers were beginning to tire, here were splendid 
materials for burlesque. A capital copipany entered 
heart and soul into Byron s fun — *' little Johnny Clarke,!' 
James Rogers, James Bland, who, until the appearance 
of Robson, was the king of burlesque, Charlotte Saun- 
ders, Miss Oliver, and Marie Wilton, who, after leaving 
the Lyceum, had passed over to the Adelphi, but unable 
to get *'any business there,*' had, when the old house 
was pulled down, transferred her services to the Strand. 

Nothing more deVighifully pzguan/e than Marie Wilton 
in burlesque can be conceived ; her style was not that 
of Vestris or of Waylett, it was her own and nobody 
else's. As far as it can be described, Dickens admirably 
hit it off in a letter to Forster : — 

** I really wish you would go, between this and next 
Thursday, to see TAe Maid and the Magpie burlesque," 
he writes. " There is the strangest thing in it that ever 
I have seen on the stage — the boy Pippo, by Miss 
Wilton. While it is astonishingly impudent (must be, or 
it couldn't be done at all), it is so stupendously like a 
boy, and unlike a woman, that it is perfectly free from 
offence. I never have seen such a thing. She does 


an imitation of the dancing of the Christy Minstrels 
— wonderfully clever — which> in the audacity of its 
thorough-going, is surprising. A thing that you cannot 
imagine a woman doing at all ; and yet the manner, the 
appearance, the levity, impulse, and spirits of it are so 
exactly like a boy that you cannot think of anything like 
her sex in association with it It begins at eight, and is 
over by a quarter-past nine. I never have seen such a 
curious thing, and the girls talent is unchallengeable. I 
call her the cleverest girl I have ever seen on the stage 
in my time, and the most singularly original." 

Fra Diavolo was the first of the long series of bur- 
lesques that drew crowds to the Strand night after 
night and year after year. It was the operas, varied by 
|uch old melodramas as The Miller and His Men, that 
Byron chiefly foisted his fun upon. One of the cleverest 
of the series was The Lady of Lyons, in which Rogers 
played Widow Melnotte and Charlotte Saunders, Claude. 
The former was excruciatingly droll, while the latter, 
who was called the female Robson, gave a very remark- 
able performance, especially in the last scene where she 
posed as Napoleon. It was a wonderful picture. He 
wrote for several successive companies. Bland and 
poor Jimmy Rogers, both excellent comedians, died 
before Marie Wilton left the Strand for Tottenham 
Street, and they were never adequately replaced ; but 
the same facile pen continued to pour forth with equal 
fluency The Kenilworths, The Ivanhoes, The Africaines 
for Messrs. James, Thorne, Terry,^ Miss Raynham, 
Mrs. Raymond, etc., and their associates, as it had for 
the original company, and the houses were still crammed 
to repletion. 

^ Edward Terry made his first appearance in London at the Surrey, in 
1867.. In the same year he played the Gravedigger in Hamlet at the 
Lyceum, and joined the Strand company in 1869. 


And there certainly was a " go," an excitement about 
burlesque at the Strand in those days that was never 
approached by any other house. The enjoyment of the 
performers was really, or apparently, so intense that the 
wild ecstatic breakdown into which they broke at the 
end of almost every scene seemed perfectly spontaneous ; 
it was a frantic outburst of irrepressible animal spirits, 
and they seemed to have no more control over their 
legs than the audience had over their applause. You 
might call it rubbish, buffoonery, vulgarity, anything 
you liked, but your temperament must have been 
abnormally phlegmatic if you could resist the influence 
of that riotous mirth and not be carried away by it. 

Every vein, however rich, must be exhausted at last, 
and the same situations and the same word-twistings 
at length grew monotonous, more especially as the 
company became nfore and more mediocre, and the old 
spirit gradually evaporated. The acme of dreariness 
perhaps was attained in a burlesque called The Vampire^ 
the last, or one of the last, of the long procession of 
Swanborough burlesques, 1872. 

It was in 1868 (November 7th) that J. S. Clarke 
first appeared here as the immortal Major Wellington 
de Boots, and from that time was almost an annual 
visitor, playing The Toodles in 1869, while, in 1870, he 
made his first appearance in England in old comedy, and 
performed Dr. Ollapad, in The Poor Gentleman, for 
sixty consecutive nights. Byron himself had acted in 
several of his bright comedies. The Prompters Box, 
Hes not such a Fool as He Looks (1872). In the last 
year Clarke was again the principal attraction, as indeed 
he continued to be for a certain period during nearly 
every season. In the meantime the Strand had lost 
much of its distinctive character ; a new species of 


burlesque, very much inferior to the old in its best days, 
was initiated with Nemesis^ which, however, enjoyed as 
long a run, if not a longer, than any of its predecessors. 
It was new, piquant French, with Marius in one of the 
principal parts, and greatly took the public taste. 

A new era in the history of the Strand began with 
the production of Offenbach's tuneful Madame Favart^ 
April, 1879. Though she had appeared for a short 
time as Germaine in Les Cloches de Corneville at the 
Folly, Florence St John made her veritable London 
d^but as Madame, and took the town by storm with her 
delicious voice, her charming acting, and beautiful face. 
Miss St. John and Violet Cameron, who played Suzanne, 
were at that time the two handsomest women on the 
London stage. Olivette, 1881, was as successful. 

Condemned by the Board of Works, in consequence 
of the panic that ensued after the burning of the Ring 
Theatre at Vienna, the Strand, which had been rebuilt 
at a cost of ;^ 10,000 not many years before, was entirely 
reconstructed and enlarged, and opened on November 
1 8th, 1882, with a burlesque by Byron and Farnie called 
Frolique. It was a failure, so was the next — Cymbta^ 
by Harry Paulton. It is very curious, but the play with 
which a rebuilt theatre reopens is almost invariably a 
failure. In January, 1883, J. S. Clarke appeared as 
Dromio of Syracuse in an elaborate revival of The 
Comedy of Errors; but it failed to attract, and the 
management returned to comic opera, revivals of. Our 
Boys and other once successful plays, and a dramatic 
version of Anstey s Vice Versd. The latter was a go ; 
but the prestige of the house had waned. 

At the death of Mrs. Swanborough, who was in 
bankruptcy, Clarke announced himself as the lessee — he 
had been the real lessee some time before. There was 
2 G 


a somewhat notable season of old comedies, during 
which works were resuscitated that had long been lying 
in oblivion, such as The Busy Body, A Trip to tke 
Jubilee, in which Sir Harry Wildair figures, The Sus- 
picious Husband, The Wonder, together with others 
better known — The Clandestine Marriage, The Road to 
Ruin, etc., supported by William Farren, Edward 
Righton, H. B. Conway, Fanny Coleman, etc. 

Early in the nineties the theatre was sublet to Willie 
Edouin, who conducted it with varying fortunes for 
several years. Our Flat ran 600 nights, for which the 
authoress was munificently rewarded with ;^5o ! 

A more legitimate success was scored by that admir- 
able piece of fooling, Niobe. Distinctly original, with 
a subtle, classical flavour ; less a burlesque than an 
irony, almost pathetic in its sharp-edged contrast be- 
tween antique ideality and sordid modern realism, so 
artistically represented by Beatrice Lamb as the * re- 
vivified Niobe, and by Harry Paulton as the Life 
Insurance Philistine, it had. a singular fascination for the 
public, even for those upon whom the true satire and 
inner meaning were lost. It ran between 300 and 400 

A curious outcome of the popularity of Niobe, which 
.savours more of Paris than of London, was what, at 
the time, were called " Niobe wedding parties." It was 
quite the thing for those who had assisted at a wedding 
to go and see the Strand piece in the evening; one 
night as many as twenty stalls and two boxes were 
engaged by a hymeneal party. How this extraordinary 
function was first started, or by whom, I am unable to 

During the last few years the Strand has secured 
very long runs with farcical comedies, notably Why 


Jones Left Home, In the Soup ; but The Chinese Honey- 
moon, thanks very much X.O the irresistible drolleries of 
Louie Freer and the '*go" and the clever imitations of 
Marie Dainton, promises to reach the record of the 
house. As I write it is fast approaching its nine 
hundredth representation and is still going strong. 


It was in 1840 that Fanny Kelly, having conceived 
the idea of investing the savings of a long theatrical life 
in establishing a school for actjng, took a lease of some 
property in dingy Dean Street, Soho. The speculation 
proved so successful that she built a theatre upon a yard 
and a range of stables attached to the house. 

An engineer named Stephenson had patented an in- 
vention by which stage and scenery were to be worked 
by machinery. By means of a series of cog-wheels, 
placed beneath the stage and moved by leverage power, 
**the wings" could be shifted, "the borders" changed, 
the scenery raised or lowered, and even the stage sunk, 
cleared of whatever might be on it, reset, and wound 
up again. Miss Kelly received the most encouraging 
promises of support from high quarters, while the Press, 
in a series of preliminary puffs, prophesied a complete 
revolution in stage art. 

** Miss Kelly's Theatre," as it was called, first opened 
its doors on March 25th, 1840, with a drama by Morris 
Barnet, called Summer and Winter, in which the mana- 
geress and author sustained the principal parts. But, 
alas ! the wonderful machinery which was to be the 
making of the house proved its destruction. Stephenson 
had represented that the whole arrangement could be 
worked by one man, but when it came to the test a 


horse had to be employed. The theatre was a mere 
bandbox, and the trampling of the horse beneath the 
stage and the working of the cog-wheels shook every 
plank in the house and gave the audience St. Vitus's 
dance. At the end of five nights the actors outnumbered 
the spectators, and the house was closed. But how to 
get rid of the fatal machine } The iron bars and bolts 
and stanchions which had been required to secure it were 
so embedded in the walls that it seemed at first as 
though the house would have to be pulled down, and, as 
it was, very expensive alterations had to be made before 
this white elephant could be removed. 

Miss Kelly s Theatre was consequently closed until the 
autumn, when she reopened it with the monologue enter- 
tainment in which she had appeared at the Strand in 1833, 
but with no better success. It was her last appearance 
upon the stage. After sinking £7^000 in this unlucky ven- 
ture, she resumed her school, and amateur performances 
were given until 1849, when it is said that a conspiracy, 
into the details of which it is not necessary to enter, was 
formed to deprive her of her property, which was seized 
in default of her paying the sum of ;^i30. Miss Kelly 
survived unto her ninety-third year. At the end of her 
life a grant of ;^ 150 was accorded her from the Civil 
List ; but she did not live to receive even the first 

The persons who had been so anxious to get posses- 
sion of the theatre opened it in 1850 as the "New 
English Opera House,*' with what was called a grand 
opera in three acts, TAe Last Crusade ; but the public 
would none of it, they would not come to Dean Street. 

For the next fifteen or sixteen years there is little 
worth recording in the history of this theatre, which was 
let for amateur performances. In 1861 it was chiefly 


reconstructed, and reopened on the 12th of November 
under the name of the **New Royalty" and the direc- 
tion of Mrs. Selby, a well-known London actress ; even 
then the performances were mainly for the benefit of 
that lady's *' pupils," for the house was again **a school 
for acting." Burlesque was the principal attraction ; 
Ada Cavendish, " a pupil," made her first appearance in 
public as Venus in the celebrated Ixion. In 1865, 
Adelaide Neilson made her d6but as Juliet, and even 
then created considerable sensation among the critics. 

In the next year charming Miss Oliver, who had 
delighted Lyceum audiences under Vestris with her 
comedy acting, and Strand playgoers under the Swan- 
boroughs in burlesque, ventured upon the New Royalty, 
and was highly successful for several seasons. Black- 
Eyed Susan, her great hit, was one of the best of the 
burlesques. Fred Dewar as Captain Crosstree, Edwin 
Danvers as the Widow, and the manageress as " pretty 
Se-usan " were as droll and charming as anything the 
stage has seen in this style of piece. The company was 
excellent throughout. The Bohemian Gyurlyfzs the next 
production, in which one of the cleverest burlesque ac- 
tresses even ** of the palmy days," Charlotte Saunders, 
was immense as the Gipsy Queen. And Craven's pretty 
little domestic dramas, Meg's Diversion and Milky White, 
were almost as attractive as the burlesque. 

Miss Henrietta Hodson was the mistress of the little 
house in 1870, but only for a brief period. She revived 
some old comedies — Tobin's Honeymoon and Wild Oats, 
in which she played the leading parts with Charles 
Wyndham, who had made his first appearance in 
London upon those boards in 1866 as Sir Arthur 
Lascelles, in All that Glitters is not Gold. As most 
people know, the famous comedian was on the Medical 


StafF of the Federal Army during the American War. 
There is a story told of his first appearance upon any 
stage, which, if not correct, is at least ben trovato. It was 
at New York under Mrs. John Wood's husband ; the 
opening lines of his part were, " I am drunk with love 
and enthusiasm." He got as far as ** I am drunk," 
when, overpowered by stage -fright, the words stuck in 
his throat, and he could go no farther. It was his first 
and last appearance upon that stage. Actors who rise 
to eminence usually begin with a fiasco ; mediocrity 
seldom feels nervous. That admirable opera-bouffe 
actress, Selina Dolares, made a hit here, in 1875, in La 
Perichole, Mr. G. R. Sims s Crutch and Toothpick was 
a great success in 1879. Miss Lydia Thompson, with 
W. J. Hill and Miss Wadman, played in Little Orpheus 
and His Lute in 1881. Two years later Miss Kate 
Santley, who is still the lessee, took over the theatre, 
and had it reconstructed and handsomely decorated. It 
reopened in May with Sims s and Clay's comic opera, 
The Merry Duchess, a good-natured skit upon the 
sporting Duchess of Montrose, with Henry Ashley, Kate 
Munro, Arthur Williams, and Miss Santley in the 
principal parts. Comic opera was now the go for a time, 
but there was not much money in it. Mr. Mayer, after 
he quitted the Gaiety, gave his annual series of French 
plays in Dean Street during several years. Here 
Ibsen's Ghosts was first played, in English, 1891. 
Mr. Bourchier started as manager here in 1895, and 
met with some success. Mr. Alexanders name headed 
the bill at the end of 1896; in the next season Louie 
Freer was playing in Oh Susannah ! and Penley in A 
Lithe Ray of Sunshine in 1899. In the following year 
Mrs, Patrick Campbell took over the house, had it 
beautifully decorated and upholstered, and presented The 


Canary, The Sacrament of Judas y a very fine perform- 
ance of Magda, Fantastics, Echegary s Mariana, Pellias 
and Melisande, and revivals of The Notorious Mrs. 
Ebbsmith and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray; Bjornsen's 
Beyond Human Power ^ etc. When Mrs. Campbell went 
to America, George Giddens took her place for a season 
and brought out A Snug Little Kingdom, Sporting Simp- 
son, Lyre and Lancet, but not with satisfactory results. 
During the present year, Martin Harvey produced a 
Napoleonic play, The Exile, which had a very brief run. 
A season of Gernian plays, now in progress, ends the 
chronicles of the Royalty up to the time of writing. 


The St. James's— Memoirs of the "Unlucky" Theatre, 1835-1903 

IF ever a theatre honestly earned fpr itself the title of 
unlucky, that theatre was The St. James's, which 
from the time of its foundation until it came into the 
hands of Messrs. Hare and Kendal certainly spelt ruin 
and bankruptcy to all who were rash enough to invest 
in it. 

In the year 1835 the famous tenor, John Braham, 
then near upon sixty years of age, conceived the 
ambition to become a tlieatrical manager, and purchasing 
a site in King Street, St. James's, upon which stood 
an old-fashioned hotel, that dated back at least to the 
reign of the second Charles, called Nerot s, invested 
a large portion of the savings of a long professional life, 
;^26,ooo, on its erection. It had taken many years 
of toil in those times, when hundreds were not paid 
for a song, to accumulate that amount, reckoning from 
the days when '* Master Braham," at the age of thirteen, 
made his first appearance upon any stage at the old 
Royalty, in Wellclose Square. In building the new 
theatre, Braham, as many another actor has, both before 
and since, depended upon his personal popularity, and 
believed that his name at the head of the bill would 
be quite sufficient to secure a success. 

The St. James s opened on December '14th, 1835, 



Avith Agnes Sorel, the music by Mrs. G. A. k Beckett ; it 
vras styled, in obedience to Act of Parliament, "an 
operatic burletta," though it was a serious opera. Braham 
himself sang the tenor part, and was supported, among 
others, by Stretton and Miss Priscilla Horton, afterwards 
Mrs. German Reed, then one of the most charming 
of actresses and vocalists ; the heroine being sustained 
by a pupil of the manager, Miss Glossop, her first 
appearance upon any stage. The prices were what we 
should call cheap nowadays: boxes, five shillings; pit, 
three ; gallery, two ; with half-price to all. Agnes Sorel 
was not a success, neither were any of the other pieces 
which were produced during a very short season of little 
over three months. 

People said the theatre was too far west for the 
general public, and there was a considerable amount 
of truth in this ; for although the St. James's is but a 
few minutes' walk from the Haymarket and the Opera 
House, it is only within the Icist few years that, except 
to visit the houses last named, theatrical audiences cared 
to go west of the Strand ; and now — so the old order 
changes — the new theatres are all in that direction. 
But the main cause of the failure was the common one, 
the utter indifference of the public to theatrical amuse- 
ments, and the abstention of the fashionable world, 
which patronised only Italian opera. 

In the following April the St. James's was opened by 
a Parisian company, under the management of Jenny 
Vertpr^e, with Auguste Nourrit as the star ; it was the 
first of that series of French plays with which this 
theatre was for so many years identified. 

On Thursday, September 29th, 1836, Braham re- 
opened the house, which in the announce-bill he pro- 
claimed to be the most splendid theatre in Europe, with 


a comic piece by ** Boz/* called The Strange Gentleman. 
Dickens always had 2l penchant for the stage, and might 
have applied himself to dramatic authorship had not the 
success of the Pickwick Papers for once and all turned 
the current of his genius into another channel. The 
Strange Gentleman was founded upon one of the 
Sketches, The Great Winglebury Dv^ly and is written 
very much in the style of a modern farcical comedy ; 
it is full of complications, impossible coincidences, and 
grotesque situations ; Harley in the principal part added 
greatly to the success, and the piece ran about fifty 
nights. Thereupon Braham pressed for another from 
the same pen, and Dickens, collaborating with John 
HuUah, then a young and comparatively unknown man, 
produced Village Coquettes^ an English opera, after the 
style of Bickerstaff's Love in a Village; the manager 
was delighted with it, protested that nothing so good 
had been done since Sheridan's Duenna, and anticipated 
a great triumph. But all parties concerned were doomed 
to bitter disappointment. Village Coquettes was savagely 
cut up by the Press, failed to draw, and did not attain 
its twentieth night. The plot is on very old lines. A 
village beauty who all but falls into the snares set for 
her by a villainous squire and his friend, a rustic lover 
who talks sermons in a strong dialect, and a comic man 
who comes in for situations ; not that its conventionality 
was any bar to its success, as it was quite in accordance 
with the tastes of the day. John Parry abandoned his 
vocal entertainment, to which, however, he afterwards 
returned, to play in this piece and some others that 

This failure, however, did not close Dickens's con- 
nection with the St. James s. In the following season, 
on March 6th, 1837, a farce by the great novelist. 


entitled Is She His Wife f was produced there, but with 
only moderate success.^ 

Braham in the meantime was appearing in a round 
of his old parts : as Young Hawthorn in Love in a 
Village — that charming old ballad opera that contains 
some of the prettiest of old English music ; as Henry 
Bertram in Guy Mannering, with Madame Sala as Meg 
Merrilies ; as Tom Tug in The Waterman^ etc. ; in any 
of which, not many years before, the great tenor could 
draw large audiences ; but whether it was that age had 
''staled his infinite variety," or the public would not go 
so far west even to hear an old favourite, it is difficult to 
say, but the second season closed with another heavy 
loss. During the third season, Mrs. Stirling, Wright, 
and Mrs. Honey were added to the company ; the first 
was already a favourite at the Adelphi and the Strand. 
Nearly three-quarters of a century ago Fanny Stirling 
was beguiling our grandfathers and grandmothers of 
their tears in the heroines of domestic drama, in which, 
after Mrs. Yates had quitted the stage, she held the 
foremost place, and charming them by her vivacity as a 
comedienne, as she delighted another generation by her 
inimitable performances of the Nurse and Mrs. Malaprop. 

But neither Braham s singing, nor Mrs. Stirling's nor 
Mrs. Honey s nor Edward Wright's acting, could draw 
the public to the theatre. ** I feel quite proud to-night," 
said the manager, entering the green-room one evening, 

^ In 1838, Macready desiring to have something from his pen, he wrote 
a farce for Drury Lane called The lamplighter, but upon being read in 
the green-room it was so unfavourably received by the company that he 
withdrew it. Dickens afterwards converted it into a story for The Pic Nic 
Papers, but for some reason it is not to be found in any collected edition of 
his works. This, if we except such pieces as No Thoroughfare, in which he 
collaborated with Wilkie Collins, and Mr. Nightingales Diary, written for 
that "splendid strolling'' in connection with the Guild of Literature and 
Art, closes the list of Charles Dickens's writings for the public stage. 


" I have just counted the pit, and there are seventeen 
people in it ! " Nevertheless, he bravely held on to the 
sinking ship, until at the end of 1838 he found all his 
savings swept away, and himself, at the age of sixty- 
four, almost penniless. 

With an indomitable pluck that few men possess, he 
arranged a tour through America, where his success, 
notwithstanding his advanced age, was prodigious. 
Having replenished his coffers, he once more returned 
to his native land, and took up his abode with his 
daughter, the Countess Waldegrave, until his death in 
1856, at the ripe age of eighty-three. 

But long ere that event took place the unlucky theatre 
had impoverished several others rash enough to under- 
take its management. Hooper opened in 1839 with a 
company that would now nightly cram any house in 
London : that fine veteran, Dowton ; Walter Lacy ; 
Wrench, the Charles Mathews of that time ; Mrs. 
Glover ; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Matthews ; James Bland, 
who, until the rise of Robson, had no compeer as a 
burlesque actor ; Alfred Wigan, then in his very early 
days, and playing small parts ; Miss Turpin, a fine 
singer ; charming Mrs. Honey, beautiful as a houri^ 
with the throat of a nightingale. 

How much the public appreciated such brilliant talent 
may be gathered from the circumstance that shortly 
afterwards a " Forest of Wild Animals " was announced 
in the playbills, and lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, 
and jaguars were brought to King Street to supple- 
ment the two-legged performers. Drury Lane had set 
the example by converting itself into a menagerie for 
Van Amburgh, and Bunn had found it to be a splendid 
speculation, against which Macready, with Shakespeare 
and a glorious company at Covent Garden, could not 


contend. "Our youthful Queen" having patronised 

the wild beast show at Drury Lane twice in one week, 

everyone was eager to display his or her loyalty by 

doing likewise, and for once the St James's — out of the 

French season — was nightly crowded. When the lords 

of the forest had sated fashionable curiosity, a troupe of 

dogs, monkeys, and goats took their place. But ere 

this the best of the despised human actors had taken 

flight. Yet even with all his bestial attractions one 

season was enough for Mr. Hooper ; and after the usual 

French company, which occupied the house during May 

and June, the " Poet " Bunn opened the theatre on 

November 5th, 1839, with an opera company. Six 

weeks of empty benches, and the doors were closed 

suddenly ; and not again opened until the following 


It was the time of the Queen s marriage, and Bunn 
thought that a German opera company — then a novelty 
in London — would, under the circumstances, prove 
attractive. Accordingly, an arrangement was entered 
into with Herr Schumann, director of the opera at 
Mayence, and as a further compliment to royalty the 
theatre was renamed the Princes. The Germans 
proved even more attractive than the wild beasts, not 
on account of their talent, for, with the exception of 
one or two of the men, the company, to judge from the 
strictures of the Press, must have been execrable ; but 
everything German was the rage just then, and the 
theatre W2is crowded nightly throughout the season. 
Unfortunately, Bunn was at the same time the manager 
of another unlucky theatre, Drury Lane, which brought 
him to the bankruptcy court. So the St. Jamess was 
once more in the market. 

Thinking, perhaps, that the spell of ill luck was 


broken, Morris and John Barnett, the former a very 
clever comedian, who had been in Braham's company, 
and the latter a very popular composer, undertook the 
management in November, 1840, opening with an opera 
called Fridolin. But these victims of misplaced con- 
fidence only just escaped ruin. 

It was in 1842 that Mitchell, of Bond Street, became 
the lessee, and changed the name of the theatre back to 
St. James's,' which it has borne ever since. Under his 
management, which lasted about twelve years, the house 
was almost entirely given up to French companies, and 
each season London had an opportunity of witnessing^ 
performances by the finest artistes of the Parisian stage. 
Mademoiselle Plessy, the delightful • D^jazet, the incom- 
parable Frederick Lemaltre, Ravel, Levasseur, and, 
above all, the grand Rachel. 

Though it was at Her Majesty's that Rachel Felix 
made her London d^but as Hermione in Racine's 
Andromaque in 1841, it is with the St. James's she is 
chiefly associated in the memories of old playgoers. 
G. H. Lewes has drawn a curious parallel between the 
great Jewish tragedienne and Edmund Kean, both in 
their careers, their physical appearance, and their style 
of acting ; but it is with the modern Rachel, Sarah 
Bernhardt, that the critic of the present day would be 
most inclined to draw comparisons ; both of Jewish 
extraction, half German, half French, the elder actress 
being the daughter of a Jew pedlar, born in French 
territory ; in physique and in their careers the similarity 
is remarkable. 

Upon her first appearance in this country at Her 
Majesty's, Rachel was received with an effusion perhaps 
even greater than that which has greeted her successor, 
for it was not only aristocracy, but royalty that was at 


Rachel's feet; the Duchess of Kent took a beautiful 
shawl from her own shoulders and wrapped it about 
the actress when she complained of cold one night at 
the wings ; the Queen presented her with a splendid 
bracelet inscribed, " From Victoria to Mademoiselle 
Rachel." When she fell ill frequent bulletins were 
issued, and upon her reappearance the Queen and the 
Queen Dowager were both present at the theatre to 
congratulate her upon her recovery. Allowing for the 
absence of royalty, we had a repetition of this furore 
when " the divine Sarah " used to be led down an alley 
of aristocracy resting upon the arm of some ducal host 
By the time, however, that Rachel appeared at the 
St. James s, in 1846, certain details of her private life 
having oozed out, the drawing-rooms were closed against 
her, and royalty held aloof, though her transcendent 
genius still made her the idol of the theatre. The 
serpent-like grace and the overwhelming passion of 
Rachel live again in Sarah Bernhardt ; but the supreme 
excellence of the two artistes differs in kind. Rachel 
was essentially the grand tragedienne, the exponent of 
Corneille and Racine, the lineal descendant of the 
great tragic actresses of the eighteenth century — of 
Clairon, Dumesnil, Adrienne Lecouvrer — ^and though 
she abandoned the sing-song cadences of her prede- 
cessors, she never descended to the level of ordinary 
humanity ; her personations were ideal, heroic, such as 
their creators conceived them. Amidst the uncom- 
promising realism which universally pervades the spirit 
of our age, tragedy is impossible ; our idea of tragedy 
is a murder in Whitechapel ; Melpomene no longer 
carries the dagger and the bowl, but the kitchen poker 
and the carving-knife ; tragedy is absorbed in melo- 
drama, for melodrama is essentially realistic. 


Sarah Bernhardt is not a tragedienne, but a great 
melodramatic actress ; her Ph^dre may be as terrible in 
its intensity as Rachels, but it is human, while that of 
the elder actress was a hell-bom chimera, a spirit of 
incarnate evil. Charlotte Bronte has well defined this 
when she says : ** It is scarcely human nature that she 
shows you ; it is something wilder and worse ; the feel- 
ings and fury of a fiend." In another place she says 
more strongly : "It was like a glimpse of hell." All 
agree, however, that Rachel was deficient in the ex- 
pression of love and tenderness, that she had no pathos ; 
that is to say, where Sarah Bernhardt is strongest she 
was weakest. Her last appearance at the St. James's 
was in 1853; her last appearance upon any stage was 
at Charlestown, December 17th, 1856; after that she 
returned to France — to die. 

Notwithstanding some great successes, Mitchell had 
his failures ; among others the German company, which in 
1853 played Goethe s Faust and several of Shakespeare's 
plays in Deutsch. German, however, was a language not 
greatly cultivated fifty years ago, and the experiment was 
not a success. At the expiration of his lease, it is said that 
Mr. Mitchell's balance, like that of all his predecessors, 
was on the wrong side. 

A year later the unlucky theatre was taken by Mrs. 
Seymour, the lady who was so intimately associated with 
Charles Reade ; an actress of some power, who had 
formerly held a leading position at the Hay market and 
other theatres. The opening piece was by Reade, The 
Kings Rival. Among the actors introduced to the 
London stage under this management may be mentioned 
the names of Miss Lydia Thompson and J. L. Toole.^ 

* Toole had appeared at the Hay market two years previously, but it was 
just an appearance and nothing more ; this was his first engagement in a 
London theatre. 


Miss Thompson, in Magic Toys^ made a great hit by her 
charming dancing, but Toole's metropolitan success was 
reserved for the Lyceum, under Dillon. An English 
version of Euripides's Alcestts, with Gliick s music, the 
musical arrangements being under the direction of Sir 
Henry Bishop, proved as gi;eat a failure as Antigone had 
been at another house. 

• Passing over the next few seasons of monotonous 
failures, we find Augustus Braham, undeterred by his 
father's fate, taking up the paternal sceptre, and in June, 
1859, producing an opera by Edward Loder, called 
Raymond and Agnes, founded upon the ghastly episode 
in Lewis's Monk. Hamilton Braham, George Perren, 
Susan Pyne, and Madame Rudersdorf were in the cast ; 
but five nights of empty benches ended the speculation. 

Each succeeding year brought forth a new manager ; 
and Alfred Wigan's name next headed the bill, and it 
was during his short tenure that he gave some of those 
performances by which he is best remembered. I may 
especially note two plays. The Isle of St. Tropez and 
The Poor Nobleman, in which, even after the great 
French originals who had played them on these boards, 
he scored a remarkable success. 

At the Christmas of- 1 861 the name of Alfred AVigan 
gave place to that of George Vining, but before the 
following year was far advanced, the latter had been 
deposed in favour of Frank Matthews, a most admirable 
actor of old men's parts. It was during his season that 
Miss Herbert, who had been attached to the St. James's 
since Wigan's management,^ startled the town by her 
powerful performance of Lady Audley, at a time when 

^ Miss Herbert, after making her first appearance at the Strand, joined 
Wigan at the Olympic in 1856, and created some attention by her per- 
formance in Tom Taylor's Retribution. 
2 H 


Miss Braddori s novel was the sensation of the day. It 
. drew for a while, but Matthews made no lasting success, 
and after a season Webster stepped into his shoes. He 
brought a fine company — Charles Mathews and his wife, 
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Matthews, Miss Herbert, and Mrs. 
Stirling — who played in a round of charming pieces. 

When Webster had grown tired of losing money. Miss 
Herbert relieved him of his bargain. Herself one of 
the finest actresses of the day, she gathered about her 
some excellent associates, including Walter Lacy, Mr. 
and Mrs. Frank Matthews, etc., and a good repertory of 
pieces, embracing most of the popular comedies, of Gold- 
smith, Sheridan, and Shakespeare. Henry Irving made 
his second appearance in London (1866) as Doricourt, in 
The Belle's Stratagem. He created a favourable im- 
pression in the part; but it was not until he played 
Rawdon Scudamore, the villain of Dion Boucicault s 
Hunted Down, that he made a distinct mark. John 
Clayton made his d^but about this time. J. S. Clarke's 
first appearance in England as Major Wellington de 
Boots was at this theatre in 1867, and that excessively 
droll performance caught on at once. Like all her pre- 
decessors, Miss Herbert retired from the St. James's 
poorer in purse. 

In 1869, after the brief management of a Mademoiselle 
de la Fert6, Mrs. John Wood s name became identified 
with this house, and as her first productions. She Stoops 
to Conqtier, and La Belle Sauvage, made the hit of the 
season, people began to think that she had solved the 
problem at last how to make the unlucky theatre pay. 
If she failed it was not for laclc of good acting, when 
Lionel Brough, William Farren, John Clayton, Henry 
Marston, Mrs. Hermann Vezin, Miss Lydia Foote, and 
last, but not least, the clever manageress herself. 


appeared in the same plays. One of her most important 
productions was Sardous FemandCy in which Mrs. 
Hermann Vezin gave a very striking impersonation of 
Clotilde, and Miss Fanny Brough played the heroine — 
her d^but, if I am not mistaken. Fortunately for herself 
and the public, she soon abandoned sentimental for comic 
rdles. For a while it Wcis thought Mrs. Wood was 
making a fortune; but from the season of 1873 she 
sublet the house to various speculators, and it was not 
until 1876 that she reappeared in her character of 
manageress. The next season was notable for an ad- 
mirable production of The Dantscheffsy with John Clayton, 
Charles Warner, Hermann Vezin, Lydia Foote, Mrs. 
Wood, and Miss Fanny Addison in the principal parts. 
Produced within a twelvemonth after the French com- 
pany, with Madame Fargueil and M. Marais in the cast, 
had played it on these boards, it was a bold experiment 
though justified by the result 

Miss Ada Cavendish, under the management of Mr. 
S. Hayes, gave here a series of performances previous 
to her departure for America in 1878. 

Early in the following year it was known in theatrical 
circles that Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, in partnership with 
Mr. Hare, were about to leave their snug quarters at the 
Court, and venture upon the unlucky St, James's. The 
people who believed in the legend of luck were fully 
convinced that the new lessees would go the way of the 
old ; how signally their prophecies have failed is known 
to' all. Favourites as great as Mr. Hare and Mrs. 
Kendal, companies as good, pieces as well mounted, had 
resulted again and again at this house only in ruin to 
the speculator; but the new management came upon 
better days, when the current of fashion, and popular 
taste as well, was running in favour of dramatic amuse- 


merits. That it well deserved its success is not to be 
disputed ; some of the most perfect performances of the 
London stage were given during their eight years' 
management at the King Street house. It was Mrs. 
Kendal, however, who was the backbone of the estab- 
lishment. She was at that time one of the best all-round 
actresses upon the English stage, the best grounded 
in her art, and the best representative of the thorough 
school. Born, as it were, upon the stage, and bred for 
her profession in good provincial schools, and under the 
eyes of parents who were steeped in its best traditions, 
Mrs. Kendal W2is proficient from top to toe ; equally 
at home in the brightest comedy and the deepest pathos 
of domestic drama, though not in the poetic Yet this 
does not quite explain the secret of her popularity ; it is 
rather that she is the representative of all the proprieties 
of private life, the wife, the mother, the champion — with 
a very loud trumpet — of the respectabilities, in fine, it 
is as the matron of the British drama that xki'^ pater and 
mater familias of the middle classes especially patrbnise 
her, rather than for her talent. 

Hares and Kendal's first season opened on October 
4th, 1879, with one of their great successes at the 
Court, The Queens Shilling — Mrs. KendaFs Kate 
Greville was one of her most brilliant performances — 
and a short piece called M. Le Due for John Hare. 
In January, 1881, Pinero's first successful comedy. The 
Money Spinner ^ was produced ; a clever, unconventional, 
but risky piece of work, as everyone in the piece is 
shady ; but it caught on, and established the author s 
reputation. A more assured success, however, was that 
delightful play The Squire^ brought out at the end of 
the same year. Never did Mrs. Kendal appear to 
greater advantage than in Kate Verity. There was a 


newspaper dispute ; Comyns Carr pointed out the extra- 
ordinary likeness the piece bore to a version of Far 
From the Madding Crowd, which he had submitted 
to Mrs. Kendal for approval. Pinero asserted that he 
had never read the novel, and knew nothing about the 
play. It was a very pretty quarrel as it stood, in which 
each party, as usual, protested that he was in the right. 

Impulse^ 1882, in which Kendal acted so admirably 
as Captain Crichton, Mrs. Kendal tells us in her re- 
miniscences, was the most moneyful of all the pieces 
they produced. The Ironmaster^ 1884, was another 
success. William and Susan, W. G. Wills's version of 
Black-Eyed Susan, afforded the manageress some scenes 
of heartrending pathos. There were also revivals of 
Peril ^xA A Scrap of Paper — Susan Hartley was another 
of Mrs. Kendal's very best comedy parts — Clancarty, 
and others, to give the lady an opportunity of appearing 
in her favourite characters. A very excellent production 
of As You Like It brought down upon Mrs. Kendal's 
Rosalind an almost brutal attack from certain sections of 
the Press, who had eulogised performances of the part 
that could not compare with it. John Hare essayed 
Touchstone. It was the worst I have ever seen, and 
I have seen some bad ones, but then his style is ultra- 
modern. Mr. Kendal, who had been a slowly pro- 
gressive actor from the first, was a very finished artiste 
in his own line, which is not the romantic or the poetical, 
but the men of the day, before he left the St. James s. 

The expiration of the lease and the secession of Mr. 
Hare from the partnership ended the management in 
1888. It had been in every way a brilliant success, and 
every production had been perfectly staged and well 

Rutland Barrington came next with Brantingham 


Hall J a drama by W. S. Gilbert. His tenure was brief 
as it was unfortunate. Mrs. Langtry held the house 
for a short time, and produced As You Like It and 
Esther Sandraz, But the old fatality seemed to have 
fallen back upon the St. James's until the advent of 
George Alexander, in February, 1891. 

Commencing with a going success, brought from the 
Avenue, Sunlight and Shadow, following it up with 
H addon Chambers's clever drama The Idler and Lady 
Windermere's Fan — the first of those brilliant comedies 
by Oscar Wilde, that promised another Sheridan, for 
such sparkling dialogue had not been heard on the stage 
since The School for Scandal, the new manager made 
a splendid start. Later on he gave another whimsical 
piece by the same author, The Importance of Being 
Earnest, which has been recently revived. Both were 
very much to the public taste. Liberty Hall, a pretty 
bit of Dickensonian domesticity, in which Marion Terry 
and Edward Righton acted so finely, did not prepare 
the public for the thunderbolt which was shot upon the 
Philistines from the stage of St. James's by Mr. Pinero 
on that May night in 1893, when The Second Mrs. 
Tanqueray first saw the footlights. It was certainly 
one of the most sensational first nights within living 
memory; the daring of the play, the extraordinary 
powers revealed by Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who, until 
then, had been regarded only as a competent actress, 
literally electrified audience and critics. ** The greatest 
play of the century," was the artistic verdict. "The 
most immoral production that has ever disgraced the 
English stage ! " was the whine of the Philistine. Con- 
troversy raged between the two parties, clergymen made 
Mrs. Tanqueray their text ; but the work was so great, 
the acting so striking, curiosity so eager, that the public 


filled the theatre to overflowing, and Mr. Alexanders 
courage in accepting a play that even so broad-minded 
a manager as Mr. Hare feared to undertake was fully 
justified at the time, and yet more emphatically since. 
The part has been played by Jane Hading and Duse, 
studied by Sarah Bernhardt for production, and repeated 
again and again by Mrs. Campbell. 

To the morality that is founded only upon supposed 
ignorance of vice, which, by putting a white handker- 
chief over an ulcerous sore, can persuade itself that the 
sore does not exist, Mrs. Tanqueray is an abomination. 
But to those who hold th'at exposure is warning, that it 
is better for the young to know the pitfalls in the path 
of life than blindly to stumble into them and be lost in 
the depths, it is a profoundly moral play. I was stand- 
ing at the back of the pit one afternoon and heard two 
young men, evidently of reputable position, discussing 
the piece. " Well," remarked one, " I tell you this, if I 
had any connection with a woman like Paula Tanqueray, 
after seeing this play, I should cut her." So it was a 
moral to at least one person. 

The Masqueraders, by H. A. Jones, which followed, 
clever as it was, did not enjoy a long run, perhaps 
because Mrs. Campbell failed as Dulcie Larondie, and 
Mr. Alexander's next striking success, early in the year 
1896, was The Prisoner of Zenda, in which Evelyn 
Millard gave so beautiful an impersonation of the 
Princess. Plays followed by Pinero, The Princess and 
the Butterfly, 1897, an exquisite bit of work, but too 
subtle and refined for a general success ; The Conquerors, 
1898, evoked much disapprobation; H addon Cham- 
bers's The Awakening was admirably acted by Fay 
Davis, Gertrude Kingston, and all concerned; Mrs. 
Craigie's The Folly of Being Wise, exceedingly 


clever, but not convincing ; E. V. Esmond s The 
Wilderness, in which Eva Moore was delightful both 
as a comedienne and an emotional actress, and Alexan- 
der was at his very best, which is very good indeed. 
Rupert of Hentzau did not rival the success of The 
Prisoner of Zenda^ while of the revivals of -^^ You Like 
It, Much Acb about Nothing, the glory was to the 
costumier and the scene-painter rather than to the 
actors. The Kendals played a season in 1898, and 
made a great hit with The Elfler Miss Blossom, in 
which Mrs, Kendal showed to greater advantage than 
she had for some time past, io a very fine and pathetic 

The notable event of 1902 was the production, on 
a most magnificent scale, of Stephen Phillips's beautiful 
poetic play, Paolo and Francesca. But it must be 
admitted the acting left much to be desired. Alexander 
was out of his element as the hunchbacked Giovanni ; 
Miss Millard lacked freshness as the heroine, in fact, she 
was a little too staid ; the rest of the caste indifferent 

If I were King opened the autumn season. With all 
its absurdities and perversions of history it was a capital 
piece of stagecraft, and most admirably acted, from the 
principal down to the smallest parts ; the stage manage- 
ment was perfect, the mise en scene beautiful. Never has 
Alexander acted with more charm and abandon than 
he threw into Villon in the first act; a very striking 
performance was that of Miss Suzanne Sheldon, as 

In Old Heidelberg, his latest production, Mr. Alexander 
astonished his admirers by his youthful make-up ; he con- 
trived to cast off the years between youth and middle 
age, and appear as a veritable boy in look and word and 
action. I do not know when I have been so charmed as 


by the simple beauty, so fresh, so unstrained, so pathetic, 
of the love scenes between Ulrich and Katie, the latter 
so delightfully acted by Miss Eva Moore, who in the 
early acts reminded me of Marie Wilton in her best 
days, as no other actress has ever yet recalled the 
inimitable Polly Eccles. I could not pay her a higher 

Mr, E. S. Willard, after a very long absence in the 
States, has held the theatre during the lessee s absence 
with a play by Louis N. Parker, The Cardinal, which 
he brought with him from America, and has proved a 

The St. James's auditorium was entirely reconstructed 
in 1900; it is now one of the handsomest houses in 
town, and shares with His Majesty's the distinction of 
being the highest-class theatre in London. . The only 
advantage the latter can claim over its rival is that 
it works upon a larger scale. 


The Princess's, 1840-1900— The Great Shakespearian Revivals. 

DURING the early years of the nineteenth century 
there stood upon the north side of Oxford Street, 
not far from the Circus, a building called the Queen's 
Bazaar, used for the sale of fancy and miscellaneous 
goods. Burned down in 1829, it was rebuilt for exhibition 
purposes. Soon afterwards Hamlet, the noted silver- 
smith, whose shop, at the corner of Sidney's Alley, 
Leicester Square, was a fashionable lounge for the 
jeunesse dorie, conceived the idea of transforming the 
place into a theatre, which was opened on October 5th, 

That its construction had occupied some time is 
evident from a line in the announce-bill stating that 
permission to call it the Princess's had been obtained 
from the Queen previous to her accession to the throne ; 
the public was also informed that " this new and elegant 
theatre was fitted up with a style and splendour never 
before equalled in this country." The first entertain- 
ments given within its walls were Promenade Concerts, 
the prices being one and two shillings. These were 
continued for some months with indifferent success ; and 
it was not until December 26th, 1842, after undergoing 
considerable alterations, that the building was opened 
for opera, varied by light dramatic pieces. The bill was 
La Sonnambula, sung by Madame Garcia, Weiss, Temple- 



ton, and Madame Sala, the mother of the famous jour- 
nalist; the extravaganza of The Yellow Dwarf hemg the 
after-piece. English versions of all the most popular 
Italian operas continued to be performed with such 
singers as Garcia, Anna Thillon, Miss Paton, while the 
dramatic company included Henry Wallack, Walter Lacy^ 
Oxberry, and the Keeleys. 

Hamlet had at one time been considered a millionaire, 
but he incurred heavy losses through not being able 
to recover on certain bonds, for large sums, given him by 
the Prince Regent and the Duke of York. This and 
the unremunerative capital he had sunk in the theatre 
brought him to the bankruptcy* court in 1843. The 
Princess's was mortgaged for ;^ 15,000, and the manage- 
ment was now taken over by Maddox, a Jew, one of the 
principal mortgagees. 

Maddox made no change in the style of entertain- 
ment Several of Balfe s forgotten operas were first 
given here. Various extraneous attractions were added 
to eke out the operatic : General Tom Thumb was 
engaged to appear after Don Pasquale ; Henry Russell 
sang " Tm Afloat," and other of his popular songs, as a 
light refreshment after Much Ado about Nothing; 
while an entertainment entitled Freaks of Fancy, sup- 
ported by a Mr. Lands and his ** Infant Brothers," 
mitigated the terrors of Timour the Tartar ; domestic 
drama came to the fore in Gwynneth Vaughan (1844), 
with Mrs. Stirling in the title-rdle, and burlesque was 
represented by Wright, Paul Bedford, and Oxberry, in 
an extravaganza entitled The Three Graces. 

The great hit of 1844, however, was Don Casar de 
Bcuian, which has been so recently revived by Lewis 
Waller, with James Wallack as the hero. Scribe's 
piece, suggested by the episode in Victor Hugo's Ruy 


BlaSy took the town immensely, and rival versions 
cropped up east and west; the Hay market produced 
one called A Match for a King^ in which Charles 
Mathews played the impecunious Don; but according 
to those who witnessed the performance, no one ever 
approached upon the London stage the dash, the 
romance, and chivalrous bearing of the original. In 
the next year Wallack further increased his fame by 
his performance of Massaroni in The Brigand^ a musical 
piece founded upon Eastlake's celebrated series of 
pictures; his spirited and picturesque acting, together 
with his charming singing of the song " Gentle Zitella," 
which was presently thrummed and sung by everybody, 
drew all London to the Princess s. James Wallack 
afterwards went to America and established in New 
York the famous theatre that still bears his name. 

In the early part of the year 1845, ^wo famous 
Americans, Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Forrest, 
made their London d6but at the Princess's. Miss 
Cushman commenced her public career as a singer, 
with a fine contralto voice, that promised to secure 
for her a high position upon the operatic stage. After 
making a successful appearance at Boston, her native 
city, as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro^ she 
took an engagement at the St Charles's Theatre, New 
Orleans, as prima donna. Soon after her arrival, prob- 
ably through injudicious attempts to extend the compass 
of her voice, her vocal powers entirely failed. This 
blow was all the more terrible since she had a widowed 
mother and sisters entirely dependent upon her. Her 
father had been a merchant of Boston, one of an old 
Puritan stock, but at his death left little provision 
behind, and all the hopes of the family were centred in 
Charlotte's prospects. 


An immense distance from home and among strangers, 
her position became a terrible one. When reduced 
almost to destitution, a friend suggested that she should 
try the dramatic stage, and persuaded her to see the 
leading actor and director of the theatre, Mr. Barton, the 
father of the writer of these pages, upon .the subject 
He very soon perceived that she had fine capabilities. 
" But," he used to say, " I could never draw them out, 
try as I would, until one day I put her into a towering 
rtige by certain rude remarks I purposely made, and then 
at last blazed forth the fire and passion I knew were 
smouldering within." She made her first appearance 
for his benefit, as Lady Macbeth, in the summer of 1835, 
and achieved a decided success. So poor was she at 
the time, that she had not the means of purchasing 
a dress for the part; pride forbade her making this 
known until the last moment, and then a costume had 
to be borrowed from an actress of about double her size, 
and made to fit as it would. 

She now returned to the North, but misfortune still 
pursued her, for she had no sooner obtained an engage- 
ment at the Bowery, New York, than she was prostrated 
by illness, from which she had scarcely recovered when 
the theatre was burned to the ground, and all the 
theatrical wardrobe she had pinched herself to get 
together went with it. Even without such reverses, 
it was a terrible uphill fight, since she had to contend 
against such physical disadvantages as a face plain 
to ugliness, with a protruding chin, a nose like Mac- 
ready's^ and a raw-boned masculine figure that would 
have been scarcely acceptable in a male. I can remem- 
ber her at a much later period, clad in a hideous beaver 
bonnet, a short, rough jacket, and very narrow skirts, 
striding up and down the stage during a rehearsal, and 


discussing the business with a gruff voice suggestive 
of anything rather than the soft sex. In Romeo she 
made an immense hit, and a yet greater sensation as 
Nancy Sikes, considered in America one of her greatest 
parts, though I do not think she ever performed it in 
England. In 1844 she was brought from New York to 
Philadelphia to play the leading parts with Macready, 
with whose style she from that time became strongly 

Having reached the highest pinnacle of fame upon the 
American stage, it was now her ambition to test her 
powers upon a London audience, and at the end of the 
year just named she set sail for England. There was 
less g^sh and charlatanism in the theatrical profession in 
those days ; the photographic art was not born ; the quid 
pro quo system, '*You beat the big drum for me in 
England, and TU do the same for you in the States," was 
unthought of; and when Charlotte Cushman arrived in 
the old country there was no deputation to receive her, 
no suppers and no preliminary pau-s in the papers to 
rouse the curiosity of the public. She took humble 
lodgings in a Covent Garden street, made a pound of 
mutton chops last her three days for dinner, hastened to 
offer her services to the London managers — and was 
rebuffed by one and all. 

How she ultimately obtained her first engagement in 
London is related by George Vandenhoff in his Leaves 
from an Actors Note-Booky as told to him by the 
manager himself. ** On her first introduction. Miss 
Cushman s personal gifts did not strike Ma<|dox as 
exactly those which go to make up a stage heroine, and 
he declined engaging her. Charlotte certainly had no pre- 
tensions to beauty, but she had perseverance and energy, 
and knew there was the right metal in her ; so she went 


to Paris with a view of finding an engagement there 
with an English company. She failed, too, in that, and 
returned to England more resolutely bent than ever 
on finding employment,- because it was now more than 
ever necessary to her. It was a matter of life and death 
almost. She armed herself, therefore, with letters — so 
Maddox told me — from persons who were likely to have 
weight with him, and again presented herself at the 
Princess's ; but the little Hebrew was as obdurate as 
Shylock, and still declined her proffered services. Re- 
pulsedy but not conquered, she rose to depau-t ; but as she 
reached the door she turned and explaimed, * I know I 
have enemies in this country, but ' — and here she cast 
herself upon her knees and raised her clasped hands 
aloft — 'so help me G — Til defeat them.' She uttered 
this with the energy of Lady Macbeth and the pro- 
phetic spirit of Meg Merrilies. 'Hullo!' said Maddox 
to himself, *s'elp me! she's got the shtuff in her,' and 
he gave her an appearance, and afterwards an engage- 
ment in his theatre." Not a day too soon, for her re- 
sources were nearly exhausted. 

Edwin Forrest was engaged at the same time to 
appear at the Oxford Street house, and Maddox wished 
the two debuts to be made together, but Miss Cushman 
would not consent to this arrangement ; she must rise or 
fall by herself alone. How wise was her determination 
was soon made evident by the crushing failure of the 
ranting, roaring Bowery idol. 

Miss Cushman 's first appearance upon the English 
stage w§s on February 14th, 1845 ; the part she selected 
was Bianca, in the now almost forgotten tragedy of 
Fazio, As soon as she was fairly in the great scenes of 
the play, her power and intensity, her pathos and abandon, 
carried away the house. She used to relate in after 


years how, being so completely overcome by excitement 
and the nervousness of a first appearance before the 
most critical audience in the world, she lost for a moment 
all self-command, and only recovered her presence of 
mind through the long-continued applause. But when 
she faced the house, the sight that met her eyes thrilled 
her in a manner she could never forget. The audience 
had risen en masse, some had mounted on their seats, 
and were frantically waving hats and handkerchiefs, and 
wildly cheering. " All my successes put together since 
I have been upon the stage would not come near my 
success in London," she wrote to her mother. 

Her own success being assured, Miss Cushman made 
no objection to perform occasionally with Forrest, who, 
however, soon retired from the scene of his discomfiture. 
Burning with rage, he accused Macready of having 
organised a clique and of joining in the hisses against 
him. There was not a shadow of evidence to support 
the charge, but it nearly proved fatal to the English 
tragedian, for when he visited America, Forrest so 
incited the New Yorkers against him that it led to 
what were called the Forrest riots, during which some 
twenty persons were killed, and Macready narrowly 
escaped with his life. 

But to return to Miss Cushman : she played a round 
of legitimate parts. Lady Macbeth, Julia in The Hunch- 
back, Rosalind, and others, with ever-increasing success, 
but probably produced the most profound impression 
of all in the character of Meg Merrilies. 

Wonderful as it was, the Meg Merrilies of Miss 
Cushman, however, bore no more resemblance to Scott s 
old crone than did the witches of Shakespeare to the 
wretched old hags that Scotch James persecuted. The 
Meg of Charlotte Cushman was a sibyl, a pythoness, 


before whose oracular utterances the boldest might have 
trembled What a thrill went through the audience as 
she suddenly darted from the side scene and then stood 
motionless, with one claw-like finger of a skeleton hand 
pointed at Henry Bertram ; what a face ! blanched and 
tanned and wrinkled and scarred, as it were, by the 
storms of centuries ; blear-eyed, with Medusa-like grey 
locks straggling from beneath a kind of turban, while 
the tall, bony figure was clad in a mass of indescribable 
rags, shreds, patches of all colours. Who that ever 
heard it can forget her delivery of the prophecy, more 
especially of the two last lines : — 

" Till Bertram's might and Bertram's right 
Shall meet on EUangowan's height." 

The tall, weird figure on tiptoe, the withered arms 
thrown up, one holding the staff far above her head, 
the flashing eyes, the deep, rough voice rising to the 
shriek of a bird of prey upon the final word — it was not 
mere acting, it was an inspiration as great as anything 
Rachel ever achieved. I once heard an old actor, John 
Rouse, who played Dandie Dinmont with her, say that 
he had to turn away his head while supporting her in 
the death scene ; and I have seen ladies in the theatre 
cover their faces with their hands, unable to endure the 
sight of the dying agonies of that awful face in the last 
fierce struggle. When all was over, she was borne off 
the stage. Some little time elapsed between her death 
and the fall of the curtain, sufficient for her to wash off 
her hideous mask, and paint and powder her face, though 
the dress was unchanged, for the call. It was a curious 
bit of coquetry for so great an artiste, but she invariably 
did it. 

Miss Cushman's engagement at the Princess's ex- 
2 I 


tended over eighty-four nights, not consecutive, how- 
ever ; opera and other lighter entertainments alternated 
with her performances ; an arrangement far more 
favourable to artistic acting than the present grinding 
and monotonous drudgery of unbroken long runs. Miss 
Cushman remained in England until 1850, but did not 
again appear at the Princess's. 

Her next engagement was at the Hay market, where 
she played Romeo to her sister Susan's Juliet The 
great American actress was an ideal Romeo. Perhaps 
not since the days of Spranger Barry had the Mantuan 
lover been interpreted with such a glow of passion and 
such fine fury. Being a woman, she had none of that 
mauvaise honte which has marred all our later Romeos, 
who, utterly incapable of assimilating the exquisite poetry 
of the character, have walked the stage in constant fear 
of a vulgar laugh, and, by that very self-consciousness, 
have deservedly evoked it. Not even an English hobble- 
dehoy, that quintessence of vulgarity, could have laughed 
at the rhapsodies of the Balcony Scene poured forth with 
the fiery eloquence of Charlotte Cushman. Neither was 
she less effective in the Tybalt and Friar scenes; the 
vehemence of her rage and despair was as firm and as 
convincing as the glow of her amorous passion. Again, 
her appearance eminently adapted her for the part It 
was no woman masquerading in male attire, but such a 
well-built youth as we might imagine young Montague 
to have been in life, not handsome, but fervid, true, 
brave, chivalrous, all that would have fascinated the 
lovely Capulet 

In 1850, Miss Cushman went back to America, but 
paid a second visit to England in 1852, performing with 
undiminished success in London, and starring through- 
out the provinces, until 1857, when, returning to her 


native country, she finally retired from the stage in 
New York in 1861. She lived in retirement for fifteen 
years, dying in 1876. 

During the entire period of Maddox's management, 
opera occupied a prominent position in the Princess's 
programme; the works of native composers — Balfe, 
Linley, Loder — alternating with foreign masters. Here 
was produced, in 1849, XaoA^r s^^xmin^ Night Dancers ; 
in the sanle year Alfred Wigan delighted London with 
his fine performance of Achille Dufard, in The First 
Night. In the next year we find Louisa Pyne and 
Harrison singing in Gustavus. 

At the close of the season we have arrived at, 
Maddox grew tired of a speculation which was, to say 
the least, not remunerative, and on September 28th, 
1850, the theatre was reopened under the joint manage- 
ment of Charles Kean and Robert Keeley.^ The initial 
performance was Twelfth Nighty with Mr. and Mrs. 
Keeley, Harley, Meadows, Addison, Ryder, Vining, 
eta, in the principal parts. The next revival was 
Henry IV., with that fine old actor, Bartley, perhaps 
the last of the Falstaffs, as the fat knight 

The advent of Charles Kean to the management 
of the Princess's Theatre commenced a most important 
era in our stage history. In Shakespearian revivals he 
had been anticipated by Charles Kemble and Macready 
at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and the latter had left 
little or nothing to be improved upon. It was, perhaps, 
for the acclimatisation of the higher school of French 
melodrama that his management was chiefly remarkable. 
Pauline, a very powerful drama founded upon one of 
Dumas's shorter stories, was a new sensation, combining 

^ The partnership was dissolved in the following year, and Kean re- 
mained sole lessee until the end. 


as it did the incidents of a transpontine play with the 
refinement of the legitimate. There is a story told of 
Queen Victoria becoming so excited over one of the 
scenes that she held the curtains of her box convulsively 
grasped until the situation was past. This play created 
a host of imitations, in which a fascinating hero, beneath 
a polished and gentle exterior, hid the heart of a tiger ; 
while the duel scene, where a loaded and an unloaded 
pistol are placed beneath the tablecloth, and each com- 
batant draws his weapon by chance, has been copied 
again and again. 

Pauline, and the success of a much more notable 
production, The Corsican Brothers, Gallicised our stage 
for a generation. The thrilling mysticism of the story 
of the twin brothers — in those anti-spiritualistic days — 
that awfully real ghost, without the conventional blue 
fire of ancient melodrama, that glided upon the scene in 
so incomprehensible a manner ; the weird melody that 
haunted us night and day after hearing it ; that terrible 
duel, the like of which had never been seen by an 
English audience accustomed to associate "a terrific 
combat ! ! ! " with short basket-hilted swords chopped 
in time to music, the whole thing divested of all the 
vulgar, noisy elements of the old school, fascinated the 
playgoer ; it was veritably a new dish for his jaded 
palate, and from that time he was continually craving 
for more like it. 

When the play was revived by Irving, with an 
elaboration of detail never dreamed of in the days of 
its first production, the old playgoers flocked to the 
Lyceum, eager to renew the old impressions ; but, alas ! 
the novelty was faded, the ghost music no longer thrilled 
them ; the famous sliding trap was criticised and pro- 
nounced clumsy and absurd ; and even the duel scene. 


marvellously as it was done, fell flat The younger 
shrugged their shoulders, and thought how much they 
had advanced in ideas of stage art, while their elders 
felt disappointed. But the exultation of the one and the 
humiliation of the other were equally unfounded; the 
theme of the famous French drama, with* endless varia- 
tions, had been taken up so frequently since its pro- 
duction that it was but an oft-told story to a new 

Kean's performance of the twin brothers was a fine 
and impressive piece of acting, with a peculiar charm in 
the first act, though not so true to nature as that of 
Fechter, who was the original at the Porte St. Martin. 
But no ChS-teau Renaud approached the first represen- 
tatives, Alfred Wigan and Walter Lacy, in ease and 
polish and quiet intensity. 

It was just the period at which the theatre had 
reached its lowest ebb in popular estimation, and, most 
fatal of all sins, was unfashionable, that Charles Kean 
entered upon the management of the Princess's. With 
one or two exceptions, the West End houses staged their 
productions in the shabbiest and most slovenly manner : 
the dresses were barbarously inappropriate and tawdry, 
the scenery dingy and primitive. Charles Kean re- 
formed this altogether. But in the fifties the time was 
hardly ripe, audiences were cold and indifferent, and 
Kean s earnest efforts were not sufficiently successful 
to tempt another manager to take up the task until 
Fechter opened the Lyceum. 

The performances given by the Princess's company, 
by royal command, at Windsor Castle seem to have 
suggested the revivals, which commenced, in the early 
part of 1852, with King John; Macbeth followed in the 
next year, Richard III. in 1854, Henry VII L, The 


Winter's Tale, and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 
1856, Richard II. and The Tempest in 1857, and King 
Lear and The Merchant of Venice in 1858. Shake- 
speare was varied with Sardanapalus, one of the most 
splendid and notable of the Princess's productions 
(1853), Faust, the French version of the story, in which 
Kean acted very finely as a French Mephistopheles, 
The Courier of Lyons, and Louis XL in 1855. The 
revivals brought out were played only three times a 
week, a variety of pieces being performed on the alter- 
nate nights. It is remarkable how closely Irving's 
management at the Lyceum followed upon Kean's lines, 
in several instances even to the same pieces. Louis XL 
was one of Keans finest impersonations, but Irving 
surpassed him in intensity and terrible realism ; the 
same may be said of the two Duboscs ; of the twin 
brothers, as I have said before, the conception and 
execution of the two actors were much alike. 

Certain salient points of these revivals seem to have 
been lost sight of and forgotten. When the Saxe- 
Meiningen company came over, everybody said that 
such grouping and such management of crowds had 
never before been seen upon the London stage ; and 
thereby old playgoers displayed a wonderful shortness 
of memory, for the public entry of Bolingbroke and the 
captive king, which Charles Kean introduced as an 
episode between the fourth and fifth acts of Richard IL, 
was as full of animation, individuality, and colour as the 
famous Mark Antony scene in Julius Casar, as repre- 
sented by the German company. 

The writer of these pages has a vivid recollection of 
this scene — a winding street, filled with a restless crowd, 
every personage of which was an independent unit, 
acting apparently upon the impulse of the moment, 


laughing, jostling, fighting, neck-craning, indulging in 
horse-play, but never for an instant inert ; the doors, 
windows, and balconies of the antique houses built on 
each side of the stage were crowded with eager specta- 
tors, some watching the vagaries of the crowd, others 
straining to catch the first sight of the coming pageant. 
At the distant sound of the trumpets, the street became 
a chaos, a shouting, scrambling, fighting mob, struggling 
for each coign of vantage, until the advanced guard, 
pushing back the people right and left, cleared a path. 
Then came the realisation of Shakespeare's fine de- 
scription : — 

" The rude, misgovem'd hands from window tops 
Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard's head." 

As Bolingbroke entered upon '* his hot and fiery steed," 

" You would have thought the very windows spake, 
So many greedy looks of young and old 
Through casements darted their desiring eyes." ^ * 

There were fine things in The Winters Tale; the 
introduced Saturnalia might have passed unchallenged 
until the Walpurgis Night was seen at the Lyceum ; 
and a picture more replete with classic beauty, poetic 
conception, and fine grouping than the Statue Scene it 
would be difficult to imagine. Notable among the stage 
effects in Kean s revivals, were the vision of Katharine 
of Aragon in Henry VIII., in which the limelight was 
used for the first time, and the burning of the palace of 
Sardanapalus, a scene unsurpassed in terror until we 
saw the earthquake in Claudian. It is only by such 
comparisons that we can estimate our progress in scenic 
illusion, and do justice to the work of the past. 

^ In his present revival of the play at His Majesty*s, Beerbohm Tree has 
followed closely upon the same lines, but with the advantages of a larger 
stage and the advance in stage arrangements since Kean's days. 


In mechanical appliances the Princess s productions 
were at a disadvantage in comparison with those of 
to-day ; the limelight was only just introduced, the 
electric was unknown, for stage effects ; and the art of 
building up such scenes as the Temple of Artemis in 
The Cup, or the Garden of Olivia, or the Hall of 
Ulysses' castle, as seen at His Majesty's, was reserved 
for a later time. Not less remarkable has been our 
advance in the cost of stage productions. Kean never 
spent more than four or five thousand upon a revival, 
and it was considered marvellous in those days. 
Irving and Tree more than doubled such sums. Again, 
salaries were incomparably smaller. For some time 
John Ryder, who played seconds to Kean, and in such 
characters as Friar Laurence and Hubert has left no 
successor, received only £% ^^^^ ^ week, until discover- 
ing that Walter Lacy was in the receipt of eight, he 
threatened to break his engagement unless his* salary 
was at once doubled ; a request which was complied 
with. Now such an actor would command from j^^o 
to ;^50 a week. On the other hand, Kean raised the 
ballet-girls from a shilling a night, their old pay, out of 
which they had to find shoes and stockings, to a guinea 
a week, and found them everything. Besides the actors 
just named, the Princess's company included Alfred 
Wigan and Harley, who was for some time the Shake- 
spearian clown par excellence. 

Charles Kean, with all his peculiarities, bad voice, 
diminutive figure, immobile features, and lack of im- 
pulse, was a most intellectual actor; his Richard II. 
was a very scholarly performance ; his delivery of the 
poetical speeches which Shakespeare has put into the 
mouth of the unhappy King, his noble and pathetic 
bearing in the trial and last scene, and the kingly dignity 


with which he invested his fall, were full of beauty. 
The same qualities marked his Cardinal Wolsey, while I 
have never seen his Leontes, more especially in the last 
scene, approached. Whatever he did — Hamlet, Mac- 
beth, or even Lear or Othello — was distinguished by 
fine taste, scholarly judgment, profound study of the text, 
and veneration for his author, and he essentially appealed 
to the cultured playgoer by his perfect refinement. I 
have read and heard the highest eulogies passed upon 
Mrs. Charles Kean, but when I saw her she was very 
stout and passde, with a sharp, high-pitched voice ; but 
that she had been a very fine artiste in the days gone 
by admits of no dispute. Few actresses, however, retain 
their powers after a certain age ; Helen Faucit was a 
most remarkable exception. 

The runs thirty years ago were not long enough, and 
the Princess's was too small and the prices were too low — 
six shillings being the highest — for such costly pro- 
ductions to be remunerative. In the autumn of 1858, 
Charles Kean announced the farewell season of his 
management. The last of his Shakespearian revivals 
was Henry V., produced in the following year, Mrs. 
Kean performing the part of Chorus. He made his 
final bow as a manager on August 29th, in the part 
of Cardinal Wolsey, though he afterwards appeared here 
in several short starring engagements. 

In September of the next year, Augustus Harris, the 
father of the late lessee of Drury Lane, who had for 
many years held an important position in the manage- 
ment of the Royal Italian Opera, took the Princess s. 
Among others whom he engaged was Henry Irving, 
then a stock-actor at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, 
who appeared first in a piece called Ivy Hally afterwards 
as Osric in Hamlet; but, as many a future great actor 


has before him, failed to satisfy his manager, and returned 
to the provinces. 

It was in the following year that Harris introduced 
Fechter to the London public. It was not the French 
actors first appearance in England, he had played with 
a Parisian company at the St. James's as early as 1846, 
but that was before he had made his reputation in The 
Corstcan Brothers at the Porte St. Martin, and as 
Armand Duval in La Dame atix Camelias. He opened 
as Ruy Bias. We were more insular in those days than 
we are now, and the French actor had to contend against 
our prejudices and a strong foreign accent ; but the 
charm of his style, his pathos, his passion, and above all, 
his beautiful poetical love-making — we have had nothing 
like it since — were irresistible. 

So far he was upon his own ground, a French actor 
playing a French part, the ideal hero of romantic drama. 
But when it was announced that he was about to 
challenge comparison with the great English actors of 
the past and present, and play Hamlet — with a French 
accent — British jealousy of the foreigner began to bristle 
again ; nevertheless, the experiment was the sensation 
of the season. On the night on which Fechter first 
played the part of the melancholy Dane on the stage of 
the Princess's Theatre was rung the death-knell of the 
traditional Prince of Denmark.^ Whether the classic 

1 There is every probability that an unbroken tradition as to the render- 
ing of certain of Shakespeare's characters, more especially Hamlet, though 
naturally growing hazier and less defined through each succeeding genera- 
tion, was handed down from the days of the poet to comparatively recent 
times. Rhodes, who organised the first theatrical company after General 
Monk had declared for the King, was prompter at the Blackfriars, and 
prompters are always storehouses of tradition. Again, many of the actors 
of the Restoration, notably Mohun and Hart, and the latter was Shake- 
speare's grand-nephew, had played at the great theatres, and would have 
associated with people who saw Burbage act, and to whom Joseph Taylor, 


grace of Kemble and Young or the new readings of 
Fechter and Irving be the truer rendering will be 
answered by each playgoer according to his individual 
preference. Hamlet, unlike the other great characters 
of the dramatist, has been a subject of literary con- 
troversy for the last hundred years. Hamlet, however, 
is a creation not of an age, but of all time, and is more 
en rapport with the psychology of to-day than it might 
have been with the age of his creator. 

We have had so many ** original" Hamlets during 
the last forty years, that we can scarcely conceive the 
eflfect produced by this daring innovator upon those 
accustomed to the orthodox rendering ; he discarded 
black velvet and bugles for a flowing costume of plain 
cloth, and short black hair for flaxen locks ; he threw all 
traditions, all conventionalisms, to the winds ; he treated 
Hamlet as a new part, and played it according to his 
own conceptions, unbiassed by any that had gone before; 
he sat where others had stood ; he changed all the sides, 
all the entrances, all the '* business " ; he ignored all the 
old " points " ; he was free, colloquial, easy ; all this was 
rank heresy to the orthodox, but hailed as a revelation 
by the majority. Yet it was an unequal performance. 
Never, perhaps, were the two first acts more beautifully 
rendered, especially the soliloquy, "Oh that this too, 
too solid flesh would melt" The scene with Ophelia 
was exquisite, but his delivery of " To be or not to be " 

his successor in all the great r61cs of tragedy, was perfectly familiar. 
Betterton was a pupil of old Rhodes, and must have been well drilled in the 
ways of his predecessors ; and although the influence of the French stage 
may have considerably modified his manner, he would have religiously 
adhered to the general " business " of the parts, for which actors used to 
have such a superstitious reverence that even a change of side for entrance 
was regarded as little short of heresy. Betterton's traditions descended 
to Booth and so on to Quin, Macklin, David Garrick, the Kembles, Charles 
Young, and Macready. 


was villainous, the closet scene unsatisfactory, and the 
last act fantastic and not convincing. 

The success that had hitherto attended Fechter s per- 
formances received a severe and well-deserved check 
when he applied his Hamlet method to Othello^ the 
English public would not tolerate a nineteen th-centur>' 
Moor of Venice. 

In the October of 1862, Harris was succeeded by a 
Mr. Lindus, who, like many another man with more 
money than wit, took a theatre to gratify his wife's 
craving for publicity ; she obtained the publicity she 
desired, though not in a way gratifying to her vanity, 
and her husband, in 1863, was glad enough to retire in 
favour of George Vining. The latter almost inaugurated 
his management by a first appearance that promised 
great things. I allude to that of Mademoiselle Stella 
Colas, whose fine rendering of Juliet evoked the most 
extraordinary enthusiasm among a large section of the 
playgoing public. Although a French rather than an 
Italian Juliet, it was undoubtedly a striking and powerful 
performance. But she was only a shooting star that 
quickly disappeared from the theatrical horizon. 

Vining gave a number of famous sensational dramas 
to the stage. The Huguenot Captaiuy in which Adelaide 
Neilson made one of her earliest successes, with its 
splendid ballet, French grotesques, and elaborate stage 
setting. Then came The Streets of London^ with its 
then wonderful fire scene, the fame of which, alas ! has 
long since been extinguished by later marvels ; Arrah 
na Pogue — the most delightful of all Irish dramas — with 
its ivy tower effect, that was more attractive to the 
crowd than even the admirable acting of Mr. and Mrs. 
Boucicault, or of John Brougham, or of Dominick 
Murray, immense as was his performance of Michael 
Feeny, or of charming Patty Oliver. 


Never Too Late to Mend was brought out in October, 
1865. It was a stormy first night, long remembered. 
It seems somewhat ludicrous to us who have heard the 
groans of the man on the rack in La Tosca, and the 
agonising cries of the tortured boy in The Sign of the 
Cross, to read of a dramatic critic — Mr. Tomlins was 
most probably under the effects of whisky at the time — 
rising in the stalls to protest against the flogging of the 
boy Josephs in the model prison scene. There was a 
great clamour for and against George Vining, who defied 
the cabal ; the critics wrote down the play, but it ran 
148 nights, and the profits were ;^8,ooo. In that year, 
1865, Charles Kean played his farewell engagement 
here. His death took place in January, 1868. 

After Dark was a great hit of the Vining manage- 
ment, though it was only another version of an old 
East End play, taken from the French by Edward 
Stirling, called the The Bohemians of Paris, with the 
famous underground railway sensation interpolated. 
Vining occasionally varied the sensational with more 
legitimate productions, such as The Monastery of St. 
fusty and Donna Diana, 

Benjamin Webster succeeded to the management in 
1 869 ; Chatterton joined him during the second season, 
and in 1872 became sole manager. The new director 
attempted to revive the legitimate glories of the house 
by the engagement of Phelps, who appeared here in 
all his most famous parts, alternating with Creswick, 
Othello and I ago, Macbeth and Macduff, etc. Charles 
Dillon, a wreck of the man who had made the great 
success at the Lyceum seventeen years before, played 
an engagement here in the autumn of 1873, appearing 
as Manfred in Lord Byrons tragedy, a part utterly 
unsuited to his style. The management, however, had 


ultimately to go back to melodrama, to such pieces as 
Janet Pride^ Lost in London, The Lancashire Lass. 
In November, 1875, Joseph Jefferson reappeared here 
as Rip Van Winkle, and was as successful as he had 
been at the Adelphi ten years previously. 

And now the days of the old Princess's began to 
be numbered ; the last remarkable production seen upon 
its boards was Charles Reade's version of L'Assommoir 
— Drink (1879) ; a gloomy and revolting play that was 
only redeemed by the extraordinary performance of 
Charles Warner in the part of Coupeau. 

In November, 1880, the new Princess's was opened 
by Edwin Booth, who utterly failed, and so most in- 
auspicously inaugurated the building. 

Wilson Barrett came here from the Court with 
Madame Modjeska in the spring of 1881. But the 
Hungarian tragedienne failed to draw, and Bronson 
Howard's play. The Old Love and the New, was put on. 
Fortune, however, frowned upon the management until 
the production of G. R. Sims s Lights d London, a new 
departure in domestic melodrama. Upon a purely con- 
ventional plot of the old school was grafted a number 
of clever realistic episodes of street life, which gave 
a freshness to old faces that at once caught on with the 
public. The author s next drama, The Romany Rye, 
however, did not quite equal its predecessor in popu- 
larity. But Jones and Hermanns The Silver King, 
the next on the list, far surpassed it That i6th of 
November, 1882, was a notable first night. From the 
falling of the curtain on the first act, which gave a novel 
variety to an old theme, the play was a triumph ; and 
perhaps no better work of the kind has been seen upon 
the stage. The three dramas were perfectly staged and 
admirably cast. Mr. Willard, then new to the London 


public, established his reputation by his original per- 
formance of the " Spider," in which he created a new 
type of the stage villain, and in each succeeding char- 
acter he more than maintained his position. 

After upwards of a year s run The Silver King gave 
place to Claudian, a poor play, by W. G. Wills, magni- 
ficently mounted, and with that wonderful earthquake 
effect I can call up the scene before my mind*s eye — 
the gardens, the porticoed palaces steeped in the soft 
Italian moonlight, the groups of classic statues, the 
subdued music, the voluptuous dancing figures, the 
oppressive hush of the hot summer's night. Then all of 
a moment blank darkness, a vivid flash of lightning, a 
crash of thunder, the roll and rumble that shakes the 
theatre to its foundation ; a few moments* death-like 
silence, and the moonlight steals over the stage again 
and shows, where late were beautiful gardens and 
marble palaces, a chaotic ruin of broken walls and 
pillars. It was really terrifying. 

A revival of Hamlet, 1884, was notable from a scenic 
point of view. An artist was sent over to Denmark 
to take sketches of Elsinore. It was the first time an 
attempt had been made to impart local colour to the 
tragedy, and the result, especially in the first act and in 
the play scene, was very striking. JuniuSy a tragedy by 
the first Lord Lytton, 1885, was another grand coup de 
thidtre. The ruined temple of Romulus, the streets 
and palace of the Tarquins, were unsurpassable stage 
pictures, ^yit Junius, like all other classical plays, was 
a failure, and Mr. Barrett had to fall back upon revivals 
of his melodramas, until Mr. Jones's Hoodman Blind, 
in which Miss Eastlake gave a remarkable performance 
in the dual r6le of Nance Yeulitt and Jess, and Willard, 
another striking study of a villain in Mark Lezzard, 


was ready. Mr. Barrett was also seen at his very best 
in Jack Yeulitt. 

In Sidney Grundy's Clito^ Miss Eastlake, who had 
never yet been seen in heavy tragedy, fairly electrified 
the house by the daring abandon^ the fierce power, the 
wild abject terror of her Helle, the Greek courtesan; the 
manager was also excellent as Clito, while the staging was 
quite equal to that of Claudtan and Junius. But the 
classical drama pretty well absorbed the profits of the 
realistic. The five years of Wilson Barrett's manage- 
ment are worthy of all praise as a record of strenuous 
endeavour to advance the higher theatrical art, but, alas ! 
it was only successful with the lower forms of it. Hawtrey 
succeeded Barrett, and I can remember his production of 
an effective play of Hamilton's, Harvest, in which poor 
Amy Roselle acted very finely. Then came Grace Haw- 
thorne, who made a success with Pettit's Hands Across 
the Sea. Upon his return from America in 1888, Wil- 
son Barrett appeared here in Ben ma Chree. Later on 
Miss Grace Hawthorne played an English version of 
Theodora, a wonderful get-up — her dresses, it is said, 
cost ;^i,5oo — but they did not draw the ungrateful 
public. The lady lost some ;^ 14,000 before she quitted 
Oxford Street. 

Then came Mrs. Langtry, who revived Antony and 
Cleopatra on a most magnificent scale, and produced 
several original pieces. But the theatrical current was 
flowing away from Oxford Street ; the gloomy, heavy 
house, so suggestive of a well, was never popular ; and 
after Wilson Barrett's retirement, public patronage 
rapidly dwindled. In 1896 an attempt was made to 
bring it back with East End melodrama, as represented 
by In Sight of St. Paufs, and cheap prices. Two Little 
Vagabonds scored a decided success in the same year, 


thanks to the sympathetic acting of Miss Kate Tyndal 
and Miss Sydney Fairbrother. Charles Warner at- 
tempted to revive his old triumphs in Drink and Never 
Too Late to Mend\ old Adelphi dramas were brought 
back to life with varying, but no permanent success. 
Versions of Lorna Doone and Dr. Nikola were brought 
out in 1 90 1. The Fatal Wedding, 1902, was the last 
piece that had any run. The County Council has since 
then closed the house until certain costly improvements 
shall be made. 

It is impossible for anyone to glance through these 
brief chronicles of the older West End theatres without 
being struck by the deplorable condition of things theat- 
rical during the greater part of the nineteenth century, 
thanks to the freaks of fashion and the black wave 
of Puritanism that swept over the country from about 
1830 to 1870. The wonder is that the drama did not 
absolutely die out under the indifference and hostility 
of the great majority of the people. For dreariness 
those forty years can only be compared with the reign 
of ** the Saints." 

2 K 


The Vaudeville— The Court and the Criterion— Wyndham's Theatre— The 

New Theatre. 

THE Vaudeville, 1870- 1903, was built for three 
of the most popular actors of their time — H. J. 
Montague, who had been playing the juvenile parts in 
Robertson s comedies at the Prince of Wales s, David 
James, one of the great favourites of the later Strand 
burlesque days, and Thomas Thorne, who had won a 
reputation at the same house. Such a combination 
seemed to be a guarantee of success. But it did not 
come to the opening bill, Love and Money, by Halliday, 
and a burlesque, called Don Carlos, April i6th, 1870; 
and it was not until the production of The Two Roses 
in the autumn that the public really took to the new 
theatre. Albery s charming comedy was an inspiration 
of the Robertson school, but the canvas was broader, 
the colouring brighter and deeper, though the dialogue, 
by the author s straining after far-fetched analogies, was 
more artificial even than that of School. Henry Irving 
had already made his mark at the St. James's and the 
Queen s, but it was as Digby Grant that he first rose 
to celebrity ; it was a wonderful bit of character acting. 
And then how charming was Harry Montague as Jack 
Wyatt, and poor Amy Fawsitt as Lottie, and what 
unction that drollest of comedians, George Honey, 
threw into the part of Our Mr. Jenkins. It was a 
delightful entertainment. 



The Two Roses had a very long run, and soon after- 
wards Montague left his partners for the Globe. James 
and Thorne were joint managers for some years, but 
ultimately Thorne became sole lessee. 

All previous successes in the annals of the stage were 
left far behind by the record of Our Boys^ which ran 
from January i6th, 1875, unto April i8th, 1879, and 
has been revived again and again, I know not how 
many times, not only at its first home, but at half a 
dozen other London theatres, to say nothing of the 
provinces. Yet there was in it only one piece of acting 
above the common, David James's Middlewick, but that 
pat of " dossett " butter did more for the comedy than 
all the talent of all the actors put together; it came 
home and appealed to oi iroWol as no artistic touch ever 
could appeal. It was only a mediocre play ; when it 
was first offered to them, the managers might have 
bought, at least all the metropolitan rights, for a few 
hundreds, but their faith in it was not equal to such 
expenditure, for which the author had much to be 
thankful ; he made a fortune by the piece, and James 
and Thorne cleared between ;^20,ooo and ;^30,ooo each. 

The earlier years of the Vaudeville have an excellent 
record of good plays and good companies ; the scene- 
painter and costumier were always in the background, 
and the actor to the fore. Old playgoers will recall the 
excellent revivals of TAe School for Scandal, which ran 
400 nights — the record; of The Rivals, 1883, in which 
the Sir Anthony Absolute of Farren, the Mrs. Mala- 
prop of Mrs. Stirling, the Lydia Languish of Miss 
Winifred Emery, were worthy of the best days of old 
comedy ; of The Road to Ruin, with Warner as Young 
Dornton, Farren as Old Dornton, David James as Gold- 
finch ; of Money, with Henry Neville, Farren, Righton, 


Thome, Ada Cavendish, Mrs. John Wood, Miss Alma 
Murray ; of others that I have forgotten. Then came 
a reign of farcical comedy, such as Confusion, which ran 
a twelvemonth ; Loose Tiles, Doo Brown and Co., etc., 
interspersed with more serious plays — Under Fire, by 
Westland Marston, and best of all, H. A. Jones's Saints 
and Sinners, 1885, a clever play and a keen satire upon 
the narrow-minded bigotry and hypocrisy of sectarianism, 
which aroused the bile of the Maw worms and led to a 
fierce controversy, in which the more enlightened of the 
clergy took the side of the author, and even recom- 
mended their flocks to go and see the comedy. Nothing 
more charming was ever put upon the Vaudeville stage 
than Buchanan's Sophia, 1886. Kate Rorke was an 
ideal representative of Fielding's heroine ; and never 
was actor better fitted with a part than was Charles 
Warner with Tom Jones ; he looked it and acted it to 
perfection. I think Lady Bellaston was Rose Leclercq's 
first essay in the middle-aged fine lady, and what a fine 
performance it was ; no one has been found to succeed 
her in that r61e ; and Lottie Venne as Mrs. Honor, so 
full of dainty quaintness and espiiglerie, while Thome's 
Partridge was, perhaps, the best thing he ever did. 
Josephs Sweetheart, another Fielding dramatisation, 
though not equal to the first, had a good run. The 
acting was not as good ; Thorne did not realise Parson 
Adams. Later on it came to Richardson's turn, and 
Miss Winifred Emery beguiled the town of its tears by 
her exquisite performance of Clarissa Harlowe, 1889. 
It was in this play that her future husband, Cyril Maude, 
I think, made his first appearance. 

The later years of Mr. Thome's management were 
not so fortunate ; perhaps the or/^r-manager was too 
much en Evidence. Old successes were revived, but not 


with the old casts; Hedda Gabler, Rosmersholm, at 
matinees, were played for the first time in England 
(February, April, May, 1891) by Miss Robins, Marion 
Lea, It was the commencement of the Ibsen craze, and 
although the British public did not take to the cult it 
has exercised an enormous influence upon our dramatic 

The original Vaudeville had one of those pinched-up 
frontages which characterised the old London theatres, 
that always sneaked back from public recognition as 
though ashamed of their existence. In 1891, the facade 
was greatly extended and remodelled and the interior 
redecorated and reupholstered. Little more than a year 
later, however, Messrs. Gatti took over the house, 
giving, it is said, ;^ 15,000 for the twenty-one years' 
lease. They inaugurated their season with another 
revival of Our Boys. One of their greatest successes 
was that uproarious farce A Night Out, kept in the 
bill for hundreds of nights. The engagement of Mr. 
and Mrs. Seymour Hicks has proved good business, 
as the long runs of Sweet and Twenty, Alice in Wonder- 
land, Quality Street, and other successes have testified. 

The Vaudeville is able to make the same boast as 
the old Gaiety — it has known only two lessees, and 
during almost as many years. 

The Court, i 870-1 903, which was first called the 
New Chelsea Theatre, was opened on the same night 
as the Vaudeville — April i6th, 1870 — under the manage- 
ment of Messrs. Morgan and Oliver; the prices were 
cheap, the entertainment a mixture of theatre and music- 
hall. Rechristened the Belgravia, the theatre dragged 
on a brief and miserable existence until it came into 
the hands of the late Miss Marie Litton. The original 
building was a dissenting chapel, and the builders of 


the New Chelsea had not made more alterations than 
were imperatively necessary. The new lessee, however, 
entirely reconstructed the house, charmingly decorated 
it, and in January, 1871, it began a new and prosperous 
career as the Royal Court Theatre. RandaPs Thumby 
by Gilbert, was the opening piece, supported by an 
excellent company, including Mr. and Mrs. Frank 
Matthews, Hermann Vezin, and Mrs. Stephens. 

An early hit at the Court was Gilbert s adaptation 
of Le Chapeau de Paille, christened The Wedding 
March, one of the most uproariously funny of the 
Palais Royale musical farces. Many may remember 
that leviathan, but excruciatingly comic actor, William 
Hill, as Uncle Bopaddy. After a long run here it was 
revived at the Folly in 1879. 

But the Court never before or since has had such 
a sensation as the famous burlesque. The Happy Land, 
written by Gilbert himself under another name, upon 
his own fairy play. The Wicked World, 1873, in which 
the Government of the day was held up to merciless 
ridicule. Not since Fielding s Pasquin had such a 
pungent satire been put upon the stage. Ayrtoun, most 
philistine of iEdiles, went to see his ^'counterfeit present- 
ment" going about with a pot of slate-coloured paint, 
with which he daubed all public buildings, statues, and 
monuments. "What is a ship?" asks a competitive 
examiner. "I don't know,'* is the reply. **Then you 
shall be First Lord of the Admiralty," is the dictum. 
The trio and dance of Gladstone, Lowe, and Ayrtoun 
with the ensemble, ** Here a save, there a save, every- 
where a save," were frantically encored again and again. 
But the Prime Minister was wroth, and the Lord 
Chamberlain ordered the make-up of the actors, which 
was so marvellously like the originals, to be modi- 


fied. The Happy Land was afterwards revived at the 

In 1875, John Hare became lessee of the Court, 
bringing with him the Kendals, Amy Fawsitt, John 
Clayton, H. Kemble, and for several seasons the Sloane 
Square Theatre was one of the most enjoyable places 
of amusement in all London. What delightful perform- 
ances they gave us of The Scrap of Paper, The Queens 
Shilling, A Quiet Rubber, The Ladies Battle, etc., etc. 
Wilson Barrett came to the Court in 1879, and in the 
following season the celebrated Hungarian tragedienne, 
Madame Modjeska, played Juliet, and in a new play of 
Wills's, called [uana. 

Two years later, John Clayton inaugurated his manage- 
ment with a translation from the French, entitled Honour, 
followed by Boucicault's Mimi, founded on La Vie de 
Bohime, a beautiful performance of Marion Terry's as 
the heroine, but neither of the plays scored. Next a 
revival of Gilbert s Engaged, which was originally played 
at the Haymarket in 1877, ^^^ of the most scathing 
satires that ever came even from the pen of W. S. G. 
Henry J. Byron appeared as Cheviot Hill, the part 
created by George Honey. The Parvenu, Comrades, 
a play by Pinero, The Rector, a revival of Robertson s 
Play, and other pieces followed too rapidly for any great 
success. Arthur Cecil joined the management in the 
second season, and the partners associated themselves 
with an excellent company — Marion Terry, Mrs. John 
Wood, Mackintosh, Brandon Thomas, Charles Sugden. 

No marked success, however, . rewarded the efforts 
of Messrs. Clayton and Cecil until the production of 
Pinero's The Magistrate, in March, 1885, which literally 
took the town by storm. Here was a new kind of far- 
cical comedy without a suspicion of French or German 


origin, without risky situations or a flavour of double 
entendre, and yet as funny as anything we had ever 
borrowed from Paris; it was a roar from beginning 
to end. One of the secrets of its success was its prob- 
ability. Such farces as Pink Dominoes are utterly ex- 
travagant and impossible ; but in The Magistrate one 
had only to grant the first premises, to admit the likeli- 
hood of an elderly gentleman placing himself in the 
hands of a boy, as Mr. Posket did in those of Cis 
Farringdon, for a benevolent purpose, which, as the 
author put it, was no great stfain upon the credulity, and 
every adventure that flowed therefrom was within the 
range of possibility. Nor did the piece, like previous 
three-act farces, rely upon situation alone ; the dialogue 
was witty and even brilliant, and the literary merit of the 
work incontestable, while the acting, down to the smallest 
part, both in The Magistrate and its successors, The 
Schoolmistress and Dandy Dick, all of which had long 
runs, was as near perfection as we can hope for. Mrs. 
John Wood, by her inimitable humour, would alone 
have carried the audience ; next to this admirable actress 
were the infinitely quaint and droll performances of Miss 
Norreys, especially as Peggy Hesselrigg ; next in order 
came Messrs. Cecil, Clayton, and Eversfield, while the 
ensemble was proportionately excellent. 

The old Court Theatre was pulled down to make way 
for local improvements in 1887. 

On the 24th of September, 1888, the new Court 
opened under the management of Mrs. John Wood and 
Mr. Arthur Chudleigh, with Mama, a version of Les 
Surprises du Divorce, in which the manageress, John 
Hare, and Arthur Cecil appeared. The new lessees 
were not as fortunate as their predecessors ; Mrs. Wood 
scored a success in Aunt Jack by that nonchalant, 


daring humour that could say the riskiest things without 
offending; and a very clever comedy by Pinero, The 
Cabinet Minister, admirably acted by Arthur Cecil, 
Weedon Grossmith, Brandon Thomas, Mrs. Wood, and 
a good all-round cast, drew all London, if not to enjoy 
the satire, to see the ladies* magnificent court dresses, 
that cost fabulous sums. The AmazonSy another tren- 
chant satire by Pinero, was given here in 1893. 

It is rather curious that at a time when the suburban 
theatre was becoming an institution that the prosperity 
of the Chelsea house should so decline. There is little 
worth recording after Mrs. Wood's secession from the 
management. A Pantomime Rehearsal, brought from 
Terry s, was played for the 400th time in 1892. The 
names of Lumley, Charles Hawtrey appear at the head 
of the bills, then Chudleigh's and Mrs. John Woods 
reappear in a piece called The Old Lady, 1892; after 
that Miss Annie Hughes, who revived Nancy ; Miss 
Robins followed with a translation of Echegary's 

In 1897, John Hare returned to his old home with 
much iclaty the Prince and Princess of Wales and the 
Duke of York honouring the event by their presence. 
The opening play was a revival of Pinero's The Hobby 
Horse, first produced at the St. James's in 1886, but not a 
marked success. Later on in the autumn, Humper- 
dinck's The Children of the King was produced. His 
Excellency the Governor and Pinero's Trelawney of the 
Wells were successes. Mr. Kerr was manager in 1901, 
and staged a play of Ogilvie's and The Strange Adven- 
tures of Miss Brown. The first was a deadly failure. 
During the present summer the old morality play, 
Everyman, a most curious resuscitation, has been the 
afternoon attraction. 


The Criterion, 1874-1903, stands upon the historic 
site of the old St. James s Market; it was behind the 
counter of a glover's shop in that market that George 
III., then Prince of Wales, first met Hannah Lightfoot; 
and it was at the Mitre Tavern close by, half a century 
previously, that Farquhar heard the landlady's niece 
reading The Scornful Lady, and struck by hfer dramatic 
power, introduced her to the stage, where she was 
known as Mrs. Oldfield.^ 

The Criterion, which was at first only an adjunct 
to Messrs. Spiers and Pond's new hotel, was opened 
in the autumn of 1874. An underground temple of the 
drama into which it was necessary to pump air to save 
the audience from being asphyxiated was certainly a 
novelty. It opened with An American Lady, a new 
comedy by H. J. Byron, Mrs. John Wood playing the 
principal part. Opera-bouffe, which was then at the 
height of its popularity, followed, and was initiated by 
the Pres cU St Germain. The success of the Criterion 
however, was far from assured until Mr. Alexander 
Henderson, in 1877, converted it into an English Palais 
Royal by the first of a long line of farcical comedies, 
The Great Divorce Case and On Bail. The three-act 
farce was a novelty in England at this period, and, 
rendered as it was at the Criterion with almost Parisian 
vivacity and lightness of touch, made a great hit On 
Bail was succeeded by Pink Dominoes, 1877, the first 
English piece that successfully broke down the icy wall 
of insular respectability, and induced the Mrs. Grundys 
to flock to hear naughtiness in their native tongue — 
in French it was always quite another thing.^ 

See p. 62. 
" Schneider used to say that her acting was far more prononci in London 
than in Paris, indeed, that a Parisian audience would not have stood what 


Truth, Betsy, Foggertys Fairy, Fourteen Days, Little 
Miss Muffit, in which Miss Kate Rorke made her first 
hit, and acted most charmingly in an extremely delicate 
situation as Mimie. It was also the first occasion on 
which Mr. Beerbohm Tree came to the fore. These 
are the best-remembered pieces of the early days of this 

As burlesque has never been played as it was at the 
Strand in the Swanborough days, so farcical comedy 
has never been acted in this country, before or since, 
with the chic, the lightness of touch, the refinement, the 
neatness, the swing of the Criterion colnpany — George 
Giddens, Alfred Maltby, Herbert Standing, W. Blakeley, 
Henry Ashley, Harriett Coveney, Lottie Venne, Mary 
Rorke, W. J. Hill, and others — with Charles Wyndham 
as the animating and directing spirit of all. Wyndham 
has always been regarded as the successor of Charles 
Mathews, but there is much to be differentiated in their 
individual styles. Mathews had not the dan of Wynd- 
ham, nor had Wyndham ever quite the easy elegance or 
the repose that marked the most mercurial flights of the 
elder Charles. Actors of different generations, each was 
equally representative of his own. But Sir Charles 
Wyndham has a power and versatility that Mathews 
never possessed, he has depth, passion, pathos, whereas 
his famous predecessor, away from the lighter vein of 
comedy, was not distinguished. 

Wyndham had succeeded Henderson in the manage- 
ment of the theatre. Closed by order of the Board of 
Works for reconstruction, the house enlarged, superbly 

delighted her English patrons. She knew their taste, provided it was done 
by a French actress and in the French tongue. But ladies who have gone 
through an elaborate French course at school may always safely be trusted 
at French plays, as they are not likely to understand a word of them. 


upholstered, and lit throughout by electricity — the first 
London theatre, I think, that trusted wholly to that 
illuminant — the Criterion reopened its doors in April, 
1884, with a revival of Brighton. In the following 
September, J. H. Macarthy's The Candidate proved a 
phenomenal success. At one time the advanced book- 
ing amounted to ;^7,ooo. 

A revival of David Garrick was a triumph ; Wynd- 
ham's prestige was enormously increased by a perform- 
ance far superior to Sothern s, more especially in the 
last act, and it has been from that time a never-failing 
card to play when all else failed. Revivals of old 
comedies — Wild Oats, London Assurance, The School 
for Scandal, She Stoops to Conquer, etc., with Mrs. 
Bernard Beere, Mary Moore, most fascinating of in- 
ginues, Fanny Coleman, Rose Saker, David James, 
Arthur Bourchier, in addition to those already named, 
in the casts, relieved by occasional new plays, such as 
The Fringe of Society, in which Mrs. Langtry appeared, 
but of no permanent interest, fill up the chronicles of 
the Criterion until January, 1893, when The Bauble 
Shop, a very clever, if fantastic play, which, though it 
evoked much unfavourable criticism, won the favour of 
the public, commenced a new era in the prog^mme of 
the theatre. The manager s greatest admirers were not 
prepared for such an exhibition of power and of the 
highest qualities of the histrionic art as that passionate 
invective, dignity, tenderness, love which he threw into 
the character of Clivebrook. From that night Sir 
Charles Wyndham ranged himself among the most 
finished actors in Europe. 

Another long run was made by that brilliant comedy. 
The Case of Rebellious Susan — this, I think, was Miss 
Mary Moore's chef-d'oeuvre. In Rosemary, 1896, Wynd- 


ham more than confirmed the high opinion he had 
created in The Bauble Shop ; here again we had the 
true ring of passion and pathos, and certainly no other 
English actor could have sustained a whole act in 
monologue without killing the play. The LiarSy one of 
the very best of Henry Arthur Jones's comedies, and 
H addon Chambers's The Tyranny of Tears drew large 
audiences for scores of nights. The Jest was a mistake ; 
Sir Charles is essentially a modern actor, he is not happy 
in doublet and hose. It was most exquisitely staged, 
but it was a failure. Wyndham took his farewell of the 
old house, in which he had enjoyed so many triumphs, 
in the character of Sir Jasper Thorndyke, in July, 1899. 

In his parting speech he said: "This house, which 
ordinarily holds only ;^220, holds to-night no less than 
;^ 1,474." The whole of the proceeds was generously 
given to the Prince of Wales's Hosphal Fund. 

Sir Charles still remained lessee of the Criterion ; for 
a time after his departure to his new house he was in 
partnership with Mr. Arthur Bourchier. Wheels With- 
in Wheels, Monsieur de Paris, and Lady HuntwortKs 
Experiment, by Carton, The Under Current, The Girl 
front Maxinis, John Hare with a revival of A Pair of 
Spectacles, the transference of The Marriage of Kitty 
from Wyndham's, are the most notable items in the 
history of the house since the departure of Sir Charles. 
The latest productions have been A Clean Slate, Just 
Like Callaghan, and E. V. Esmond's Billys Little Love 
Affair, which has decidedly caught on. 

As it may be said of Sir Charles that le thddtre 
est moi, I will for once depart from the chronological 
order I have adopted throughout these pages to jot 
down some brief notes upon Wyndham's Theatre, 
one of the most elegant and charmingly decorated and 


upholstered houses in London. It was opened in 
November, 1899, with the evergreen David Garrick ; 
the whole proceeds of the first night were given to the 
Aldershot Fund for the British Soldiers' Wives and 
Families ; a guinea each was paid for seats in the first 
three rows of the gallery, and the whole amounted to 
over ;^4,ooo. 

A revival of The Liars, Dandy Dick^ and then Cyrano 
de BergeraCy which, though beautifully staged (1900), was 
not a success ; as I said before, Sir Charles is not at his 
best in doublet and hose. Mrs. Danes Defence in the 
same year, however, made ample amends. Perhaps it is 
the finest play that Mr. Jones has written, certainly he 
has done nothing else so subtle and powerful as the 
scene in which Sir Daniel Carteret draws from the 
unhappy Mrs. Dane the proofs of her guilt ; the perfectly 
natural manner in •which the conviction is evolved is 
beyond all praise. And the interpreters were worthy of 
the author ; Miss Lena Ash well established her right to 
be classed among the greatest emotional actresses of the 
day, and has since fully maintained it by her wonderful 
performance in Resurrection; while Sir Charles has never 
surpassed the perfect art, the touches of tenderness, with 
a soupfon of cynicism, that distinguished his imperson- 
ation of Justice Carteret. In my whole theatrical ex- 
perience I cannot remember a scene that held an audience 
in more breathless suspense than the one referred to, or 
that evoked a more excited burst of applause, renewed 
again and again as the curtain fell upon it. 

The Mummy and the Humming Bird, The End of a 
Story, two or three revivals, the transference hereto 
of The Marriage of Kitty from the Duke of York's, a 
brief revival of Rosemary , and Mrs. Gorringes Necklace, 
by a new author, who has suddenly leaped into public 


favour, Glittering Gloria, of which the bulldog, excel- 
lently supported by that clever comedian James Welch 
and others, was the leading attraction, brings us up to 
the latest success, Little Mary. For perhaps the first 
time an audience did not resent, but actually enjoyed 
being "sold.** The secret of the enormous success of 
this very peculiar comedy is that it has given London 
a new catchword ; but for that, and Mr. Barrie's extra- 
ordinary good luck, it would most probably have been 
a fiasco. 

The New Theatre, 1903, another outcome of Sir 
Charles's indefatigable energy, and another very beautiful 
addition to the metropolitan playhouses, was opened on 
March 12th in the present year, 1903, with a revival 
of Rosemary. And again the lessee most generously 
devoted all the takings of the first night to a charitable 
purpose, connected with our soldiers and sailors. After 
a brief run of Rosemary, Forbes Robertson came 
hither from the Lyric with The Light that Failed, and 
was followed by Mrs. Patrick Campbell with a transla- 
tion from Sudermann, The Joy of Living, a gloomy 
and repulsive play, and revival of The Second Mrs. 
Tanqueray. Mrs. Gorringes Necklace, brought from 
Wyndham s, is still running. 



The Savoy— The Comedy— The Avenue— The Novelty— The Prince of 
Wales's— Terry's— The Shaftesbury— The Lyric. 

THE Savoy, i 881-1903, built by D'Oyly Carte, 
was opened in October, 1881, with PatiencCy which 
had already enjoyed a good run at the Opera Comique. 
The Savoy, with its delicate decorations and quilted silk 
curtain and electric lighting, was one of the prettiest 
houses in London twenty years ago, when the old 
theatres had not yet emerged from ugliness, meanness, 
or tawdriness. 

The Gilbert-Sullivan combination was in the height 
of its popularity, and the glories of the Savoy began, 
and, up to the present time, has ended, with a partner- 
ship that gave delight to a whole generation of play- 
goers. It was an irony singularly in keeping with that 
spirit of incongruity and topsy-turveydom which dis- 
tinguishes Mr. Gilberts humour, that while its most 
caustic sallies were levelled against puritan respectability, 
it was especially from that division of the public that the 
Savoy audiences were drawn, for the Savoy essentially 
had an audience of its own, many of whom scarcely 
attended any other theatre. So Mrs. Grundy sat and 
saw herself held up to ridicule, and laughed at her own 
absurd reflection, without any more sense of being in 
front of a looking-glass than had the original of Foote's 



Cadwallader or Moli^re s George Dandin when subjected 
to a similar ordeal. Mr. Gilbert had the supreme good 
fortune of being associated with a musician who was in 
perfect harmony with his ideas ; indeed, the words and 
the music of the lyrics are so indissolubly mingled that 
the one loses its significance without the other. Sir 
Arthur Sullivan wrote to please his public; he was 
melodious, catchy, and never composed anything that 
Miss Jones could not strum upon her piano or warble 
in her drawing-room, or that Mr. Jones could not "get 
through." In each succeeding opera there were so 
many comic, so many sentimental songs, a madrigal, the 
regulation number of duets, trios, sestettes, and con- 
certed pieces, with very much the same phrasing in all. 
And here was the great secret of the success ; people 
flocked night after night to the Opera Comique and 
afterwards to the Savoy to catch the airs and imitate 
the vocalists at home. Yet they were delightful enter- 
tainments, when the wit and the music were interpreted 
by George Grossmith, Richard Temple, Rutland Bar- 
rington, Jessie Bond, Miss Brandram, Miss Everard, 
and others whose names will occur to the reader ; and 
then the mise en seine was so beautiful, the stage 
management so perfect, the whole thing so unique. 

What a first night The Mikado was ! I shall never 
forget the frantic delight of the audience over "Three 
Little Maids." It was the thing of the night I do not 
think The Yeoman of the Guard has ever received its 
due. The Jester's song was an inspiration ; Sir Arthur 
never did anything else in that particular strain half 
so good. In lolanthe and The Princess Ida there 
was a poetic fantasy that recalled the librettist s fairy 
comedies. Recent revivals convey little conception of 
the fascination these operas exercised over the audiences 
2 L 


of the seventies and eighties, for the subtle charm, the 
aroma, so difficult to define, had gone from them. 

Even before the rupture between the associates, the 
inevitable decay that comes at last to all things, whether 
material or intellectual, marked with inferiority the later 
productions of those facile pens, such as The Grand 
DukCy 1896, and after they were divorced the glory 
departed. Yet Haddon Hall, of which Sir Arthur 
composed the music and Mr. Sydney Grundy the 
libretto, was not without charm, but it had a short run. 
Clever composers and stage craftsmen have written for 
the Savoy — Pinero, Comyns Carr, and Sullivan, 1898, 
Ivan Caryll, 1899, 1^ ^^^ Lucky Star — but I think the 
vein was exhausted ; even Sir Arthur's last score, which 
he left unfinished, The Emerald Isle, was not exhilarat- 
ing. And then the old company, that had been educated 
and steeped in the traditions of Gilbert and Sullivan 
opera, went one by one, and their successors, clever 
artistes though they are, lack the mellowness, the 
peculiar fitness of their predecessors. The Princess of 
Kensington was the last production at the Savoy. The 
house has been closed some time. 

The Comedy, i 881-1903, started on its career on 
October 15th, 1881, under the management of Alex- 
ander' Henderson, with Audran's La Mascotte, which 
had already been tried at Brighton ; its brightness, tune- 
fulness, humour, the drollery of Lionel B rough, and the 
piquante acting and beautiful singing of Miss Violet 
Cameron, in Bettina, caught the town at once and filled 
the new theatre for hundreds of nights. Planquette's 
Rip Van Winkle, in which Fred Leslie gave a perform- 
ance of the ne er-do-well Rip that was only surpassed 
by Jefferson s, was scarcely less popular. Falka, with 
Violet Cameron, Miss Wadman, Ashley, Harry Paulton, 
Penley, was another well-deserved success. 


Mi& Violet Melnotte succeeded Henderson in 1884, 
and comic opera gave place to drama. The Silver 
Shieldy a very effective play by Sydney Grundy, 1885, 
in which the Dacres, Arthur Roberts, Kate Rorke 
appeared ; after Woman s Victory and Bad Boys, and 
a comic opera called Erminie, came Sister Mary^ by 
Wilson Barrett and Clement Scott, with Miss Lingard 
and Leonard Boyne in the chief parts. 

It was at the Comedy that Mr. Beerbohm Tree made 
his first essay in management, and produced one of his 
gres^t hits. The Red Lamp, 1887. Comyns Carr was 
the next manager. Two notable plays deserve mention 
— Sydney Grundy s The New Woman and Pinero's The 
Benefit of the Doubt, in both of which Winifred Emery 
greatly distinguished herself, especially in the latter, in 
the risky scene where she became half intoxicated, acted 
by her with most consummate art and restraint. Yet 
greater was her triumph in that fine play. Sowing the 
Wind, another of Sydney Grundy's. I can remember 
few things more beautiful than Miss Emery's acting as 
Rosamond, or than the scenes between the two old men, 
as played by Cyril Maude and Brandon Thomas. 

Ada Rehan made one of her latest appearances in 
England here in 1896. Charles Hawtrey conducted 
the theatre for some time, and brought out a number 
of pieces suited to his particular vein, in which he was 
admirably supported by that excellent actress, Lottie 
Venne. Of these, perhaps, Jane^ One Summers Day, 
To-Day were among the most successful Arthur 
Roberts was here in 1898-9 with Milord Sir Smithy 
and a burlesque on The Three Musketeers, called The 
Tre-DumaS'Skiters, Mrs. Lewis Waller played Tess 
of the D* Urbervilles ; Forbes Robertson appeared as 
Count Tezma and in the Sacrament of Judas, and 


Mr. Nat Goodwin and Miss Marion Elliot give us 
E. V, Esmond's pretty play, When We Were Twenty- 
one, which had made such a hit in America. 

The fortunes of the Comedy, however, were at a very 
low ebb when Mr. Lewis Waller brought Monsieur 
Beaucaire to their rescue. This is another instance of 
the impossibility of gauging the caprices of the public 
taste. The play was regarded as a mere pis aller^ or at 
best a stop-gap ; it had utterly failed at Liverpool just 
before, and the enthusiasm with which it was received 
on its first production in London, and the crowds that 
from that time flocked nightly — and daily — to the theatre 
were a surprise astounding as it was agreeable to everyone 
interested in the result. The run of the play was not 
exhausted when Lewis Waller closed in the August of 
the present year, and he has resumed it at the Imperial 
pending the production of Ruy Bias, 

The Avenue would most probably never have been 
built but for the supposition that the South Eastern 
would have to purchase the site for the Charing Cross 
extension scheme. But the company did without it, 
and the theatre remains. It opened on the nth of 
March, 1882, with Madame Favart and a company in- 
cluding Miss St. John, Miss Wadman, Fred Leslie, and 
Marius. French comic opera was as much the rage 
twenty years ago as burlesque had been twenty years 
previously, and Les Manteaux Noirs, Lurette^ La Vie^ 
Nell Gwynne, and others, new and revived, followed one 
another under Miss Violet Melnotte's direction. 

But the first genuine successes were made by the 
series of comic operas — Nadgy, The Old Guards and 
others — in which that inimitable droll, Arthur Roberts, 
kept the house in a roar of laughter by his antics and 
impromptus. His song and dance, ''a la militaire," 


in The Old Guards tricked out with all the impedimenta 
of the camp, was one of the funniest things I ever saw. 
There is a spontaneity, a sparkle in Arthur Roberts's 
fun, that no other comedian approaches, while his verve, 
his neatness, the quickness of his repartee are rather 
French than English. 

George Alexander made his first appearance in the 
character of manager at the Avenue in 1890, with Dr. 
Bill. Something of a fluke was the success, but how 
splendid Fanny Brough was as Mrs. Horton ; and the 
Kangaroo dance with the girl in red, whose name was 
not in the programme! I believe that dance was the 
making of the farce. The lurid French drama, A 
Struggle for Life^ which was to be ^<t piece de resistance 
and Dr. Bill only a stop-gap, was a failure, and soon 
gave way to Sunlight and ShadoWy afterwards trans- 
ferred to the St James's. In the next season, Bronson 
Howard's The Henrietta and a version of Monte Crist 
were the principal features. 

In the autumn of 1891, Henry Arthur Jones brought 
out one of his cleverest comedies, The Crusaders^ at the 
Avenue ; its caustic political satire, Mr. Palsam, dis- 
pleased a portion of the Press, and they slated it, while 
it cut too near the cherished shams of everyday life to 
be acceptable to Philistia. Miss Olga Brandon's Una 
Dell and Lewis Waller's Philos Ingarfield, were fine 
performances. After a revival of Judah, Mr. Jones 

Mr. and Mrs. Kendal played for a season here, in 
1893, ^ White Licy The Silver SheU-^^, clever Nihilist 
play, in which Kendal played very finely. During the 
next few years the records of the Avenue are barren of 
successes; Miss Annie Hughes revived Sweet Nancy 
and A Bit of Old China in 1898, and Forbes Robertson 


and Mrs. Patrick Campbell were here for a short time in 
1899. In the following season, Charles Hawtrey had a 
trump card in Lord and Lady Algy. 

The greatest success ever made at the Avenue, how- 
ever, was A Message from Mars, which ran hundreds of 
nights, though it had been rejected — what an old, old story 
— by most of the London managers. Yet, without enter- 
ing upon a controversy, which brought the play into the 
law courts, I question whether any other actor than 
Mr. Hawtrey would have made the piece go to anything 
like the same extent. It was old-fashioned and full of 
Dickens's conventionalities ; in the hands of any other 
comedian, Horace Parker would have been repulsive ; 
but Hawtrey was so utterly unconscious of his own 
beastly selfishness, he so fully believed that everybody 
about him was inconsiderate of his comfort, and he was 
so genial and good-tempered in his heartlessness, in fine, 
he was so thoroughly convincing, that he was positively 
delightful, as very selfish people very often are in real 
life. There is no actor on the stage so absolutely free 
from self-consciousness as Charles Hawtrey, even Wynd- 
ham could never tell a lie with such an artless tone 
of undoubtable veracity and such innocent blandness as 
he does. Hawtrey s art is within very narrow bounds, 
but it is perfect as far as it goes. In The Message from 
Mars, Arthur Williams did much for the play as the 

The most fortunate of recent productions at this house 
have been Weedon Grossmith's The Night of the Party, 
The Little French Milliner, for which Miss Kate 
Philips was responsible, and Mrs. Willoughbys Kiss, in 
which Miss St. John appeared in a new line of character, 
the matron. Dolly Varden, a comic opera, is now running. 

The Novelty, 1882- 1903. — The Great Queen Street 


Theatre was a ne'er-do-well from the first. A comic 
opera, Melita ; ory the Parson's Daughter, opened — and 
closed the Novelty, as it was first called, in December, 
1882. In the next year it was rechristened the Folies 
Dramatiques, and Miss Nellie Harris's name headed the 
bill ; Miss Ada Cavendish appeared in a revival of 
The New Magdalen. Willie Edouin, Lionel Brough, 
Buchanan, all tried their luck at the unfortunate 
house, and with the same result — failure. In 1888 it 
received its coup de grdce by being rechristened the 
Jodrell ! — after a lady who aspired to the honours of 
theatrical management. In that year the National Rus- 
sian Opera Company appeared there; an excellent troupe. 
During its twelve years of existence the theatre has 
been closed for longer periods than it has been open. 
Penley, after having it reconstructed and handsomely 
appointed, reopened the house as the Great Queen 
Street Theatre with A Little Ray of Sunshine, brought 
from the Royalty. He afterwards revived Charleys 
Aunty but the public would not come. During the last 
two seasons the German company have given some 
prestige to the theatre, and when in some future age 
of the world the new street from Holborn to the Strand 
is finished, Mr. Penley s theatre, if it has not crumbled to 
dust by that time, may become a popular place of enter- 

The Prince of Wales's, i 884-1903, originally the 
Prince's, was considered to be a model of beauty when 
it was opened by Edgar Bruce on January i8th, 1884, 
with a revival of W. S. Gilbert's Palace of Truth; 
Kyrle Bellew, Beerbohm Tree, Miss Lingard, Miss 
Sophie Eyre, were in the cast. A very free adaptation 
of The Doirs House^ the first of Ibsen seen in England, 
called Breaking a Butterfly y by Jones and Hermann, 


was brought out in March ; " Flora Goddard " (Norah) 
was played by Miss Lingard, whose style was quite 
unsuitable to the character. The play was severely 
criticised by the Press, and withdrawn within a month. 

The Private Secretary, with Beerbohm Tree as the 
Rev. Robert Spalding, was brought out at the Prince's, 
but it was so little successful that in less than three 
months it was replaced by a dramatic version of Called 
Back^ which was just then the sensation of the novel- 
reading world. Macari was one of Mr. Tree's earliest 
hits ; Miss Lingard was Pauline. 

Mrs. Langtry was at the Prince s in the season of 1885 
and 1886 with a revival of The School for Scandal^ 
Coghlan playing Charles Surface to her Lady Teazle, 
a performance which I have noted elsewhere.* But 
The Princess George, another of the lady's produc- 
tions, was a dire fiasco. Carton's and Cecil Raleigh's 
first play. The Great Pink Pearl, first saw the footlights 
here in 1885. The house took the name of the 
Tottenham Street Theatre, which was last under the 
management of Edgar Bruce, when the latter was taken 
over by the Salvation Army, in 1886. It has never 
been identified with any particular form of entertain- 
ment. An extraordinary success was made in 1891 by 
L' Enfant Prodigue, that wonderful wordless play, with 
its fine music, so splendidly acted by Jane May, Zan- 
fretta, Courtis, and their associates. But such is the 
fickleness of public taste that A Pierrot's Life^ finely 
played not long afterwards, failed to attract. 

Operatic burlesques — Paul Jones, 1896, Blue-Eyed 

Susan, In Town, afterwards removed to the Gaiety — 

enjoyed long runs. In the last named, Arthur Roberts's 

cafk chantant song, with the corps de ballet and the pets 

1 See "The Globe,'' p. 332. * See p. 324. 


de iieux, with Sylvia Grey, were things to remember. 
Another great hit of Arthur Roberts's, later on, was 
Gentleman Joe, the Hansom Cabby, One of the best of 
comic operas, La Poup^e, so admirably sung and acted 
by Courtice Pounds, Norman Salmond, Willie Edouin,. 
and their confrlreSy was an enormous success. 

Mrs. Patrick Campbell and Forbes Robertson were here 
in 1899, and brought out a curious Japanese play, called 
The Moonlight Blossom. Hawtrey continued the run 
of A Message from Mars^ and produced The Man from 
Blankney'Sy and, on his return from America, The 
President, 1902. The Country Mouse, for Annie 
Hughes ; a new version of Masks and Faces, for Marie 
Tempest to play Peg Woffington, also Becky Sharpe^ 
for that lady, were productions of Mr. Frank Curzon's 
management George Edwardes at present holds the 
stage with a variety show, The School GirL • 

Terry's Theatre, i 887-1 903, was built upon the site 
of the notorious **Coal Hole," where the renowned 
'* Baron" Nicholson held the Judge and Jury Club. 
October, 1887, was the date of its birth. The Church- 
warden was the first piece, The Woman Hater the 
second, and both were fairly successful. But Sweet 
Lavender brought ;^20,ooo clear profit to the manager, 
and ran seven hundred nights. It was admirably cast — 
Brandon Thomas, Kerr, Maude Millett, Carlotta Addi- 
son. Terry was at his very best as Dick Phenyl ; 
indeed, he had never done anything so good. Curious 
to say, however, no one of the several actresses who 
played the title-r61e quite realised the character; Rose 
Norreys, so clever in most parts, was quite out of it. 
Pinero wrote two more pieces for this theatre : In 
Chancery, 1890, The Times, 1892. There were some fine 
things in the latter, but it fell flat Terry's contributions 


to theatrical history have been few and little remark- 
able. Tke New Boy, Jerome's Old Lamps for New^ 
The Pantomime Rehearsal, were draws — the latter a 
great one ; but it is a long time since the little theatre 
has enjoyed such a genuine success as My Lady Molly ^ 
the popularity of which shows no signs of waning. 

The Shaftesbury, i 888-1 903, under the direction of 
Miss Wallis, who had been leading lady at the Queen's, 
Drury Lane, Adelphi, was opened only a year later 
than Terry's, October, 1888, with As You Like It, 
followed by The Lady of Lyons, etc. But the legitimate 
drama — as pronounced on that occasion in Shaftesbury 
Avenue — failed to draw the public. Better fortune 
attended the management of Messrs. Willard and Lart 
in the following year. The Middleman greatly added 
to Mr. W. S. Willard s reputation — and banking account 
as well. Judah, by the same author, was no less pros- 
perous. But it aroused one of those controversies which 
have so frequently raged about Mr. Jones's plays, when 
that dramatist has run counter to the bourgeois con- 
science, touching the false testimony of a minister of 
the gospel and the ethics thereof No doubt this dispute 
drew larger audiences than the cleverness of the play ; 
people like to say they have been shocked, it testifies to 
their morality. 

Signior Lago did a season of Italian opera at the 
Shaftesbury in the autumn of 1891, and introduced 
Cavalleria Rusticana to a London public. Then Miss 
Wallis returned with strong drama — The Pharisee and 
others — not great successes. 

Comic opera took the place of drama in 1893 with 
La Rosikre, that failed, and was succeeded by Morocco 
Bound, one of, if not the first, of the English variety 
show pieces, a species that had so long been popular in 


America. It owed its success on the first night to 
Letty Lind s imitation of a society lady s skirt dance — 
the skirt dance was the drawing-room craze of the hour 
— which, performed with all the chic that actress is 
famous for, brought down the house. 

A version of Marie Corelli's The Sorrows of Satan 
was staged here in 1897, with Lewis Waller in the 
principal part. The year before, ;^ 15,000^ was lost over 
a comic opera called The Little Genius. 

The most successful of all the variety show plays, 
The Belle of New York, was brought here in 1898, and 
introduced Edna May to the London public, as well 
.as Messrs. Harry Davenport, Sullivan, Lawton, and 
other clever Americans. The verve and **go" of all — 
principals, chorus, ballet — were irresistible, and those 
who came to sneer and condemn remained to applaud. 
Every street boy whistled the tunes, every piano 
thumped them, and everyone went to hear them. 

Since The Belle of New York the Shaftesbury has 
passed into the hands of the Americans, and has become 
a kind of annexe to the American theatres. The 
Fortune Teller, Are You a Mason ? All on Account of 
Eliza, Jedbury Junr, have been among the most recent 
productions. Fred Terry and Miss Neilson produced a 
curious mythical-tragical-musical play, called For Sword 
or Song, early in the year, but it had a very brief 
existence. A nigger troupe, that has certainly caught 
on, now holds the stage with In Dahomey. 

The Lyric, 1889- 1903. — That charming pastoral 
Dorothy, originally produced at the Gaiety in September, 

^ It was computed that within six months just about this time £yif3CO 
was lost over light operas ; the largest sum is that named above, then follows 
Lord Tom Noddy, £fo,ooo\ Monte Carlo, j£5,ooo; Newmarket, ;£3,ooo; 
On the March, ;£3,ooo. 


1886, but transferred to Shaftesbury Avenue from the 
Prince of Wales's, opened the Lyric on December 1 7th, 
1888. It made the reputation of Miss Marie Tempest — 
and of Hay den Coffin, by the now famous song of "Queen 
of My Heart," which, I believe, was an interpolation. 
After a run, at diflferent theatres, of over 800 nights, it was 
succeeded by another idyll, Doris, which, however, had 
not the vogue of Dorothy. Audran's strikingly effective 
La Cigale, with Miss Geraldine Ulmar, caught the 
public, and was followe(i by The Mountedanksy Incognita^ 
The Golden Weby Little Christopher Columbus, Dandy 
Dick Whittington. Each opera was beautifully mounted 
and interpreted by a company worthy of the beautiful 
theatre in which it was framed. Signora Duse made 
her first appearance in England here in May, 1893. 

It was a great change from light and cheerful comic 
opera to the gloomy melodrama of The Sign of the 
Cross, with its Whitechapel ruffians, Methodist revival 
meetings, and Gaiety comedy scenes, which would seem 
to prove that the ancients were quite up to date. But 
the clergy flocked to see it, and many recommended 
their flocks to do likewise, so that the home of song and 
dance became quite a weekday church, and the public 
rushed in thousands to hear the groans of the martyrs, 
witness the Neronic saturnalia, and hear Mr. Barrett 
spout texts and moral platitudes. Everybody con- 
sidered it as much a duty to go and see the Christian 
martyrs as afterwards — the Salvation Lass in The Belle 
of New York. British crazes are very varied ; they 
embrace everything — except poetry and art Mr. 
Barrett afterwards appeared in his own version of The 
Manxman, contra Mr. Hall Caine, and between the two 
dramatists there arose a very pretty quarrel Mr. 
Barrett attempted to repeat the popularity of his Chris- 


tian play with an incursion into Judaism; but the re- 
ligious boom was exhausted, and The Daughters of 
Babylon did not allure the fickle playgoer. 

After Mr. Barrett had essayed Virginius and Othello^ 
came that curiously original Chinese play, The Cat and 
the Cheruby which caught on chiefly on account of its 
novelty. Arthur Roberts in Dandy Dan^ the Life- 
guardsman, and A Modem Don Quixote. Then another 
incursion into the legitimate — Forbes Robertson and 
Mrs. Campbell in Macbeth. Floradora, a capital variety 
piece, proved a huge attraction. 

Mr. Robertson undertook the direction of the Lyric 
in 1902, and achieved great success there with Mice and 
Men and The Light that Failed. It then went back 
to its old love, the musical piece ci la Am^ricainey The 
Medal and the Maid. The last production, The Duchess 
of DantziCy upon which it is said ;^i 0,000 was expended, 
has proved an immense success. Very few of the new 
theatres have enjoyed such a prosperous career as the 


The Garrick—The Duke of York's— Daly's— The Imperial— The Apollo— 
His Majesty's — The Dramatic and Histrionic Art of to-day. 

THE Garrick, 1 889-1 903, is one of the handsomest 
theatres in London, and, reckoned by years, is 
second to none in the brilliancy of its record. It was 
inaugurated in May, 1889, with Mr. Pinero's fine play, 
The Profligate^ so superbly acted by Forbes Robertson, 
Lewis Waller, Kate Rorke. An excellent production of 
La Tosca^ with Mrs. Bernard Beere in Sarah Bemhardt's 
great part, followed, and then A Pair of Spectacles^ 
which had a phenomenal run for a good play, and has 
been a profitable stop-gap ever afterwards. Mr. Hare's 
Benjamin Goldfinch was perhaps the finest among the 
many fine portraitures he has given us, and the Uncle 
Gregory of Mr. Charles Groves was a worthy pendant 
to it. Another finely interpreted play was Pineros 
Lady Bountiful, The critics condemned it because the 
heroine was inconsistent ! To argue from analogy, one 
might have imagined that dramatic critics are drawn 
from a monastery. The play was too unconventional 
in its human analysis to please the many, and it cer- 
tainly had a very bad last act. But it was a fine piece 
of work; a very beautiful performance was Marie 
Lindens Margaret Veale, and the lady had hitherto 
been chiefly known in burlesque ; Robertson, Hare, 
Groves, Kate Rorke, all were admirable, but could not 
fill the house. A Fool's Paradise, a much inferior 



work but more understandable, was better received, for 
the story of the poisoning wife was founded upon a 
recent cause Ulbire ; Miss Olga Nethersole greatly dis- 
tinguished herself in the part, and H. B. Irving, who 
had made . his London d^but just before as Lord 
Beaufoy in School^ 1891, was the husband. There was 
a notable revival of Money ^ with Mrs. Bancroft as Lady 
Franklin, and of Diplomacy ^ 1893, which was better 
acted in some respects than it was at the old Prince 
of Waless. Mr. Forbes Robertson, Miss Nethersole, 
and Miss Kate Rorke were superb. 

Mr. Pinero's great, though somewhat heavy play, 
The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith, caused almost as great a 
flutter in the dovecots of Puritanism as Mrs. Tanqrieray 
had a little previously. There was one situation that 
thrilled the audience to the finger-tips, where the woman 
thrusts the Bible into the fire an